Noted Carolina alumnus Charles Kuralt ’55 shared in the GAA’s award-winning 1983 On the Road in Chapel Hill audio slide show that he “once advocated as DTH editor that Carolina should withdraw from big-time athletics. However, it is not possible to get 50,000 people to buy tickets to watch a student study.”
Despite the fact that no one pays to watch that activity, happily many Carolina students so distinguish themselves while at UNC that they earn some of the world’s most prestigious postgraduate scholarships. Long noted as perhaps the most coveted such award is the Rhodes Scholarship, which provides funding for two or three years at Oxford University in England.
Last fall, Ben Lundin, a senior from Nashville, Tenn., and Adrian Johnson ’06 from Toronto became the 40th and 41st Carolina students to receive a Rhodes, (Story, page 3.) This is the fifth consecutive year UNC students have earned the scholarship and all six recipients also have been Morehead Scholars. Carolina is second among public institutions in the total number of Rhodes Scholarships earned since the program began in 1902. (A list of Carolina alumni who have received this scholarship can be found online at alumni.unc.edu/rhodes.)
The successful competition by recent Carolina students competing for the Rhodes and other prestigious postgraduate scholarships is not only a reflection upon these outstanding students. Their success has been greatly assisted by the preparation they receive from Professor George Lensing, who in recent years worked with a few Carolina colleagues – including faculty and alumni who were themselves Rhodes Scholars – to ensure that those endorsed by Carolina to compete understand the process and how best to present themselves.
Our University is appropriately proud of our outstanding faculty. Carolina has long earned our much coveted respect and admiration because of the scholarship, discovery and engagement of our distinguished faculty. Many lead their national professional associations. Year after year, UNC faculty receive steadily increasing federal funding in a highly competitive environment. Every day, faculty members go into North Carolina communities and apply their expertise to some of the state’s greatest challenges. And, more important, they excite Carolina students about the joys of learning.
When UNC Provost Bernadette Gray-Little recently presented that annual update on Carolina’s Measures of Excellence to the UNC Board of Trustees, she noted her puzzlement that Carolina faculty have consistently lagged behind their peers in membership in the national academies. (From 2002 through 2005, Carolina had 35 to 38 members of the national academies while each of the institutions with which Carolina often compares itself increased their faculty in these academies from 62 to70. A list of Carolina’s current faculty with memberships in these academies is available online at research.unc.edu/resfacts/national_academies.php#arts.)
Some speculate that many of Carolina’s peer competitors specifically recruit faculty who already have earned membership in the national academies, while Carolina prefers to “grow our own.” Some Carolina faculty who are members of national academies reportedly are reluctant to promote their Carolina colleagues because that was not the protocol when they were selected for membership. Still others believe that there needs to be a University commitment to help worthy faculty achieve membership in the national academies similar to what Professor Lensing and his colleagues have been doing in recent years for outstanding students who are competing for prestigious postgraduate scholarships.
Several years ago, I asked a Carolina faculty member why he thought no UNC faculty member had ever earned a Nobel Prize. He responded that faculty in his department blamed themselves for not aggressively advancing one of their distinguished colleagues whose research achievements clearly warranted such recognition. This faculty member noted that his investigation confirmed that in recent years many of those who have earned Nobel Prizes have been greatly assisted by their university. Another faculty member with whom I spoke observed that once an institution has a few Nobel Prize winners, they often attract others. High achievers like to work and be with other high achievers.
Charles Kuralt’s amusing observation that in our entertainment-driven environment, stadiums and arenas are not filled by spectators hoping to see students study, but expecting to see collegiate athletes compete, remains true. Despite this, we remain proud of our students and faculty who distinguish themselves and Carolina by the recognition they earn through their prodigious hard work and distinguished scholarship achievements.
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70