A few years ago, I shared a story that lately has been on my mind: After saying his prayers one night, our older on once asked, “What will it be like when I’m living in a dorm at Carolina?” I was startled. Thinking quickly, I responded, “Michael, there are many great colleges and universities, and you might choose one of those.” Michael must have believed me because many years later, he waited until the week before the deadline to declare, “We won’t need another bumper sticker for the car. I’ve decided to go to Carolina.”
Two years later, Michael’s younger brother didn’t hesitate and quickly accepted Carolina’s invitation to enroll. As readers might expect, the student experiences of Brian Dibbert ’05 and Michael Dibbert ’03 greatly enhanced my understanding of and appreciation for Carolina.
As a leading public research university, Carolina remains uniquely committed to undergraduate education. The special relationship between the people of North Carolina and the nation’s first state university remains strong. The pride shared by former Carolina students continues and convinces alumni that we each attended Carolina at exactly the most perfect time.
When the time came to move each of our sons into their residence halls, it became clear that during the intervening 30-plus years since I moved into Alexander Dormitory, students came to expect and were permitted to bring much with them. I brought a single footlocker and some clothes. In fall 1966, I didn’t know anything about microwaves, laptops, DVDs or cell phones. I wasn’t allowed to have a toaster or refrigerator, and the only television was in the dorm basement. (Women still had to sign in and out of their residence halls, and all dorms were single sex.)
Having been three-sport athletes in middle and upper schools, each of our sons developed his earliest Carolina relationships with teammates —Michael as a member and later president of the crew team and Brian as a walk-on member of the varsity lacrosse teanl. Each found a major well suited to his interests — Michael in history and Brian in sports marketing within the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Each benefited from the needed advice and council of several faculty members, and Brian especially enjoyed and benefited from his internship in sports marketing in the department of athletics.
Just as the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam War protests and the food workers’ strike captured the attention of the Carolina campus when I was here, Brian and Michael sought comfort from each other following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Always each other’s best friend, during the two years they overlapped at Carolina they enjoyed attending Carolina football games together and welcomed the opportunities to sit with mom and dad at Carolina men’s home basketball games. Brian was especially pleased that as a Carolina senior he was present in St. Louis (with his parents and brother) when the Carolina men won the NCAA national championship just as he and his family were in Richmond, Va., in 1994 when the Carolina women won the NCAA national championship.
During the six years that one or both sons were Carolina students, I would sometimes walk across the campus hoping I might catch a glimpse of one of them. And when my wife assumed her fundraising responsibilities at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Michael’s senior year, we were pleased that all the family was on campus.
Now that Michael and Brian are Carolina alumni, I remain grateful for the education they received and the education our sons imparted to me about Carolina while they were UNC students. While encouraging students to take personal responsibility for their education, Carolina remains a nurturing environment. There is intimacy despite our growing size. Much vital learning continues outside the classroom. The beauty of our campus is treasured and respected, and faculty, students and staff easily and comfortably collaborate. Carolina sports are important not only because of their remarkable record of success but because of the pride taken in doing things “the Carolina way” and because sports add so much to our sense of community. And long after the specifics of a particular course are forgotten, what will remain vivid are the special friendships that developed with faculty and fellow Carolina students.
I am pleased that upon arriving in Memphis, where he teaches U.S. history in middle school and coaches the boys’ basketball and track teams, Michael quickly connected with the local Carolina Club. Similarly, while interning as a ticket representative with the Chicago Bulls, Brian worked with the Chicago Carolina Club to arrange for Carolina alumni to attend a Charlotte Bobcats vs. Chicago Bulls game. It will be only a matter of time before he does something similar in his new job with the Chicago Fire soccer team.
Regardless of where they are living and working, it is clear that they are forever Carolina sons.
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70