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Former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt ’64 (LLBJD) has been honored by UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute with its first lifetime achievement award for public service for his work on behalf of the state’s children and families.
The presentation took place May 23 at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.
The ceremony preceded a two-day conference commemorating the institute’s 50th anniversary and designed to provide a new vision for the fields of child development and early education.
“Gov. Hunt’s vision for our state’s Smart Start initiative has helped improve the quality of early learning in all 100 counties in North Carolina,” said FPG Director Sam Odom. “His service has benefited children of all ages and all abilities.”
During his acceptance speech, the former governor discussed the importance of high-quality care for the state’s youngest children.
“I believe the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute does the best work on child development in America,” Hunt said. “The institute was invaluable in the establishment of the North Carolina Smart Start program.”
Established under Hunt in 1993, Smart Start supports local nonprofit organizations across the state to help prepare preschool-age children to enter school healthy and prepared to succeed.
During Hunt’s 16 years as governor, he also created the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, chaired the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future and worked with former FPG director Jim Gallagher and others to establish the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics. He established a reading program in primary schools and put a full-time teaching assistant in every public school classroom in grades one through three.
Odom said the FPG institute conference May 24-25, backed by major foundations across the state, is bringing experts to Chapel Hill to develop a strategic vision for the field.
“It’s an important and exciting time to work in early education and child development, especially in North Carolina,” Odom said. “With Smart Start and North Carolina’s pre-kindergarten program producing beneficial and persistent outcomes for young children, our state has the opportunity to remain a leader in early care and education.”
Hunt said North Carolina faced big challenges to make education the best it could be for all children in the state: “FPG’s work on early child care and education is crucial to our success.”