Charles Garrison Duckett '82, Distinguished Service Medal Citation

Charles Garrison Duckett ’82. Photo by Ray Black III

Chuck Duckett ’82 takes Carolina football seriously. He’s a passionate, dedicated fan. But you won’t find him cheering in the stands with a beer in his hand. He’s down on the field, tucked in a corner of the sidelines, focused intently on the action, drawing up plays in his head. Campus dignitaries may stop to shoot the breeze with him. He’ll indulge them for a few minutes, then they get the message it’s time for them to keep moving down the line. He’s got to get back to the game.

Duckett brought that same intensity to his work as a member of UNC’s Board of Trustees. His eight years on the board, from 2013 to 2021, spanned a series of challenges at the University that made national news. The Wainstein report concerning academics and the sports programs, the renaming of Saunders Hall, the toppling of Silent Sam and negotiations over its carcass and pedestal, COVID and remote classes, and the debate over tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones all generated headlines.

Facts matter to Duckett, and he digs to find answers. He knows every issue has two sides, and presented with enough solid information, he’s willing to change his position. Though his degree was in political science and history, he behaves like a scientist, a former board of trustees chair noted. He probes with questions, even when some colleagues might prefer he take comments at face value. He stands up for what he believes is right, not for what will put him in the best light. He took to heart what he learned from strong mentors in the Carolina basketball family.

From an early age, Duckett has been involved with Carolina basketball. He grew up in the mountains outside of Asheville, moving to Winston-Salem with his family at age 14. When he was 11, he enrolled in the basketball camp at UNC run by Coach Dean Smith. Duckett began helping out in the camp the summer before his freshman year in 1978. (A couple years later, one of the campers he supervised was lanky 10-year-old Hubert Davis ’92.)

His first year on campus, Duckett was a manager of the junior varsity men’s basketball squad coached by Roy Williams ’72, who recommended him to Coach Smith’s varsity team the following year. By his senior year, Duckett was head manager of the varsity team, the year they won the 1982 NCAA national title. When the team returned to Chapel Hill, Duckett lofted the trophy high over his head as he led the team into Kenan Stadium for a campus-wide celebration.

He embraced the ethos of the basketball program and its emphasis on quietly doing the right thing. He remained close to coaches Williams, Smith and Bill Guthridge as he forged a career in business. He established a math scholarship in 1993 to honor Guthridge, who was then an assistant coach, and co-funded an endowed professorship in 1998 when Guthridge was head coach. As a trustee, Duckett initiated naming the court in the Dean Dome for Coach Williams.

In building his career, Duckett participated in a number of entrepreneurial ventures. For 34 years, he was a partner in Battle & Associates in Winston-Salem, which did promotional marketing for major consumer products companies. At present, he is working to bring an advanced technological solar cell and module manufacturer to North Carolina.

All the while, Duckett continually gave back to Carolina. He served on the search committees that brought to Carolina Kevin Guskiewicz as chancellor and Rachelle Feldman as vice provost of enrollment. He applied his business acumen to fundraising as a member of the steering committee for the Carolina First Campaign in 2008 and the Campaign for Carolina Committee in 2017. He joined the UNC Board of Visitors in 1996 for a four-year term, and was a member of the Educational Foundation Executive Board of Directors from 2017 to 2022.

Regardless of the meeting topic, Duckett shows up prepared, colleagues say. One of his most important roles was in renaming Saunders Hall.
Duckett researched board minutes and other documents for more than a year to understand why the trustees wanted to honor Confederate veteran William L. Saunders and the naming history of other buildings on campus. He may have spent more time in the library that year than in his four years as a student combined, but his dedication uncovered troubling revelations that he brought back to the board. The board ordered the name changed and subsequently lifted a 16-year moratorium it had imposed on renaming buildings.

More important than the buildings, in Duckett’s view, are the people inside. He understands the life of a decision-maker in the spotlight can be a lonely one. He’s known and appreciated for reaching out to people taking heat for a strong stance powerbrokers may disagree with. He seems to know when to make a phone call to offer someone moral support, to invite them on a brisk, pre-dawn walk around campus or to sit with him at a basketball game.

He’s learned in life that what’s over the door matters less than who’s inside to greet you.


The Distinguished Service Medal is presented by the Carolina Alumni Board of Directors.

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