(Editor’s Note: The GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal citations, such as this one, are read to the audience at the Annual Alumni Luncheon and then presented as a keepsake to the recipients.)
At a College of Arts & Sciences board meeting in 1996, Barbara Hyde ’83 sat next to Ruel Tyson, who was making a crucial pitch for a new building to house the Institute for the Arts and Humanities. At one point, Barbara leaned over to Tyson and quietly said, “If the dean asks you how you’re going to fund this, tell her you already have your first million dollars.”
Of all the things you could have whispered in your ear, an offer of a million dollars when you really need it ranks among the most exciting. And it captures Barbara’s style: Quietly but strategically, mainly through the Hyde Family Foundations, she has led by example when it comes to funding initiatives critical to Carolina’s stature as a premier place to teach and learn.
Barbara’s vision has been shaped by her experiences as a Morehead Scholar and, later, after she returned from a teaching stint in Kenya, as a development officer for her alma mater. In that capacity she made it her mission to organize Morehead alumni to establish the Morehead Alumni Distinguished Professorship, the first million-dollar professorship to be established under the state’s matching grant program.
But she didn’t stop there. Having raised more than the $667,000 needed for the professorship, she used the extra $407,000 to create the Morehead Alumni Mebane M. Pritchett Fund for Honors that spins off income to support the Honors Program.
Barbara has never experienced anything as much fun as raising money for Carolina. “People really want to give back,” she says. “Being the spark, the catalyst for that connection is extremely rewarding. It’s an incredible joy to represent such a powerful institution that has benefited so many lives.”
In 1987, Barbara was tapped to serve as the executive director of the Arts & Sciences Foundation, with her friend and development office colleague Mary Flanagan ’67 as assistant director. Mary describes her this way: “She helps people be their best selves.”
Barbara’s philanthropy has resulted in a number of initiatives that have helped faculty become their best selves, and that benefit is passed along to students. In addition to stepping up as the lead donor for the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Barbara and her husband Pitt ’65 endowed the institute’s Academic Leadership Program in Tyson’s honor in 2006.
She had made what she calls a thrilling transition from fund raiser to donor.
But Tyson stresses that Barbara’s philanthropy is earned, not given. She asks serious and disciplined questions about details of any proposal. Tyson characterizes her philanthropic style as “a gift, followed by accountability.”
Though she left UNC in 1992 for Memphis to become president of the J.R. Hyde III Family Foundation, a piece of her heart stayed in Chapel Hill. She continued to work for the good of UNC by accepting Tyson’s invitation to serve as a member of the institute’s external advisory board. She was appointed co-chair of the Women’s Leadership Council and put her talents to work as a member of the Carolina First Campaign Steering Committee. In 2005, she was elected to UNC’s Board of Trustees and currently serves as its vice chair.
She is living her philosophy that giving has far more impact when it comes with hands-on engagement and investment of time and sweat-equity.
As we confer the Distinguished Service Medal, we cannot help but bask in the glow of a certain satisfying connection that began on an overseas excursion. Barbara had called on Pitt about donation opportunities related to his 25th class reunion. Not long afterward, she was asked to lead a GAA excursion to St. Petersburg and Moscow. Pitt signed up for the trip, and the rest is history.
To her colleagues in philanthropy and those who trust in her commitment to academic excellence, Barbara Hyde is authentic, sincere, visionary. In the words of one, she eschews aggressiveness for plainspoken competence, and people get behind that.