From its founding, our University has weathered many storms.
While Carolina remained open throughout the Civil War, the University’s endowment was lost because of the war. Buildings fell into disrepair, and student enrollment declined. In late 1870, the trustees decreed that all faculty salaries would end on Feb. 1, 1871, and on the blackboard in one of the remaining classrooms someone wrote: “February 1, 1871. This old University has busted and gone to hell.”
A global influenza epidemic hit Chapel Hill and the University in 1918 and claimed many lives, including UNC President Edward Kidder Graham.
In the 1930s, Frank Porter Graham led UNC through budget cuts and economic calamity by making tough decisions to keep doors open. Faculty paychecks were cut, spending on the institution declined, but Carolina continued to welcome students every fall and graduate them each spring. It was not an easy world that those new alumni moved into each May; they saw evidence of a coming war in Europe, and the students who arrived in 1934 made it their mission to reach out to other nations, creating the Class of 1938 scholarships for students to study abroad. The hope was such an effort would contribute to world peace. The scholarships, and the hope, continue to this day.
In the 1960s, civil unrest touched Chapel Hill, and elsewhere, during a national atmosphere of protest and demand for change. And 30 years later, the early 1990s are remembered for another fiscal crisis at the University coupled with deep, fractional debates involving America’s enduring issue of race and, in this case, the existence of a free-standing building to anchor the study of the African-American experience.
Those events, and others, took Carolina to her core. Each time, we continued on, borne by history dedicated to the audacious principle of public higher education for the people of North Carolina.
This past year is another in which bad news will be part of Carolina’s experience.
The budget pressures are grave. The University’s compact with the state of North Carolina appears at risk. As this academic year unfolds, decisions will be made on our campus to find the best paths out of this crisis. And those paths will be found. Students were welcomed this fall, and others will graduate next spring. They will remember a Carolina, as we all do, where ideas were tested, where discoveries were not merely made but celebrated, and where lives were changed.
A year’s worth of news reports about our football program also has left a mark on Carolina. For those of us who care about our University as we do a family member, we are saddened. We wish for things to be different.
Regardless of the outcome of this sad saga over the coming weeks, as alumni of this remarkable place, please remember:This fall, let’s say in October, there will be a Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill when the sun monopolizes a cloudless sky of a blue with which we are all familiar.The temperature will not exceed 72. The grass of Kenan field will be as green as we remember it to have been when we were students. On the field, playing a game, there will be a team of young, determined 18- to 22-year-olds who have, since their earliest memories, dreamed of being in that place, at that moment, representing our University in intercollegiate athletics, one of the hallmarks of American public higher education.
Carolina will endure. We’ll come together as a family in many athletic venues and cheer the students who compete and proudly represent Carolina. But we’re comforted and will forever understand and celebrate that the value of our Carolina diplomas will continue to be earned in the classrooms and laboratories where gifted teachers and cutting-edge researches inspire future leaders and try to solve the world’s most pressing problems. That remains the Carolina Way.
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70