Chapel Hill and London are now a little closer together, thanks to a project spearheaded by UNC’s Honors Program.
The program brought to a close a four-year search for a permanent presence in Europe when it purchased a house in London’s Bedford Square in mid-September. Named Winston House, in honor of James Horner Winston ’55 and his family, the house will serve as the University’s European Study Center.
“The Honors Program had had a London honors semester going for [several years],” said James Leloudis ’77, associate professor of history and associate dean of honors. “When I first began looking at that program, I and others said, ‘Look, we’re spending an awful lot of money each year to rent classrooms, but with no real tangible return to the institution. I mean, a great educational product for the student, but really no lasting return for the institution.’ ”
So Leloudis began talks with officials across campus about creating a European studies center in London and giving the University a physical presence in one of the world’s greatest intellectual centers.
“There was considerable excitement about it,” he said. “So the Honors Program External Advisory Board, which is a group of alumni, primarily . committed themselves to the project.”
The board began raising money for the project and set a fundraising goal of $5 million. The program closed on the house for $3.3 million.
“It’s an absolute jewel,” Leloudis said of the 5,000-square-foot facility. “Bedford is the last fully intact Georgian square in the city. This is just a magnificent building, and it’ll have classrooms, offices and also a faculty residence on the top floor. . It’s kind of the best of the late 18th century and the best of the early 21st century.”
While the facility will be a boon for the Honors Program, Leloudis said the house will serve the entire Carolina community.
“The idea here was for a center that would not just serve the Honors Program but would serve the entire campus, and also a center that would not just have its focus on London but would also focus on Europe as a whole,” Leloudis said. “We’re calling it the European Study Center for a very purposeful reason. And the idea is that this place also ought to operate as a kind of hub for all that we’re doing in Europe and a way of linking all those resources together. And also as a way of bringing all those resources back to this campus.”
Located behind the British Museum and within walking distance of the University of London and the London School of Economics, as well as Yale University’s and New York University’s European home bases, the facility is expected to boost UNC’s international standing and to further Carolina’s efforts to globalize.
“This is a big, big step for us,” Leloudis said. “This is the University’s first on-site academic presence like this abroad. Certainly most of the private institutions we see as peers have had this kind of presence for quite some time. I think that it’s . just critically important that our students have this kind of hands-on familiarity with the world beyond North Carolina, beyond the United States.
“So whether a student from here is going to go work in Hong Kong or go back to Small Town, N.C., . it’s absolutely crucial for the future of this state that we prepare students with that kind of global experience and understanding.”
Carolina students will get their first crack at studying at the Winston House in the spring.