Despite the fact that Mary Turner Lane ’53 (MED) and Doug Eyre retired years ago, they continue to exemplify a precious Tar Heel value: a tireless commitment to service.
For their accomplishments and dedication to colleagues and The University of North Carolina, Lane and Eyre were honored in January with the General Alumni Association’s Faculty Service Award. Given annually since 1990, this award recognizes faculty members whose service has had a lasting impact on the University and the GAA. Over those years, 15 faculty members have received the award, including English Professor Emerita Doris Betts ’54; journalism Professor Chuck Stone; former Provost Dick Richardson; history Professor Emeritus William S. Powell ’40; religious studies Professor Ruel W. Tyson Jr., who also directs UNC’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities; and history Professor Emeritus William E. Leuchtenburg.
When Lane received her master’s of education, women were not allowed to participate in all academic programs. From the day she set foot on campus, however, she made it a point to ensure that women would no longer be confined to the shadows.
Her legacy could stand alone as the woman who created UNC’s women’s studies department, but it is not so limited. Beginning her career in education by earning a bachelor’s degree from Salem College, Lane was widowed at the age of 29 and left to raise a young daughter.
With a firm resolve, Lane went on to graduate school at UNC and received a doctorate in education from Duke University. She worked for a short time as an education instructor before becoming an associate professor in UNC’s School of Education, where she served from 1954 to 1976.
The volatile nature of many of the issues for which Lane fought required a steady demeanor. Unyielding in her principles, yet not argumentative or confrontational, Lane won over many detractors with her intelligence and disarming graciousness.
Beverly Long, Kenan professor of communications studies, says Lane’s “commitment, persistence and just plain savvy played an enormous role in the beginning of the women’s studies program at Carolina. Her belief in the importance of the lives of women has continued, grown and been forcefully voiced in educational and political arenas. She has made and is making a tremendous difference at Carolina and beyond.”
Through a career of championing the cause of women’s rights at Carolina, Lane broke down many barriers for women. She also was a visionary in establishing criteria for female faculty members to attain tenure and promotions. Founding the Committee on the Status of Women as well as the Association for Women Faculty and Professionals are among her many contributions. She also launched the Coalition for Women’s Concerns at UNC, chaired the department of elementary education and was an adviser to the dean of women’s office and the Carolina Women’s and Panhellenic Council.
Doug Eyre, as chair of the library’s administrative board and an architect of Friends of the Library, set a goal in 1984 of matching a $150,000 alumni bequest for the new Davis Library by getting 150 alumni to each contribute a donation of $1,000. It was an unprecedented goal, and Eyre called on a former student, Michael Jordan ’86, to make the initial pledge. Had Jordan not been available when Eyre came calling, plenty of others were waiting in line to stand up for him.
After earning three degrees from the University of Michigan and teaching at the University of Washington for six years, Eyre came to teach at UNC in 1957, when the geography and geology departments were one discipline. The programs split in 1962, and Eyre became the first head of the geography department. He also coordinated Carolina’s international programs for a number of years. When Eyre retired in 2001, he had devoted 44 years to UNC.
In part because of Eyre’s efforts as chair of Friends of the Library, today the UNC libraries enjoy a $34 million endowment that keeps them among the country’s top 20 public libraries.
“It is hard to imagine any other professor who would have been as willing to take on such a venture on behalf of the library,” said Joe Hewitt, associate provost for University libraries.
Eyre’s fund-raising prowess also was demonstrated during the 1993 Bicentennial Campaign, when he co-chaired the Faculty-Staff Campus Campaign that raised some $9.9 million from about 34 percent of the University community.
“Doug did a great job leading the raising of building support at a time when it wasn’t easy to do,” said Michele Fletcher ’78 (MBA), director of library development. “He was one of the first people to decide that the library needed its own fund-raising activity.”
Eyre retired in 2001 after 46 years of teaching and service at UNC, although his career in public service is far from over. Today, Eyre’s cause celebre is supporting the Chapel Hill Museum, along with a personal interest in the library’s map collections.
Lane and Eyre were presented with the award Jan. 16 during the quarterly meeting of the GAA Board of Directors. In addition, the GAA features them in enrichment programs this spring.