University Day Honors Alumni in Return to Memorial Hall

For the first time in three years, University Day ceremonies were held in Memorial Hall, now newly refurbished after a three-year, nearly $18 million transformation.

Highlights from the Oct. 12 event included a keynote address by UNC English Professor Christopher Mead Armitage and the presentation of four Distinguished Alumnus and Alumna Awards. Later in the day, the University dedicated Memorial Grove, an area recently developed at the east end of the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery on the campus for scattering or burying of ashes.

University Day has been marked each Oct. 12 dating to 1877. Classes were canceled from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. so that faculty, staff and students could attend. Armitage, whose lively style and personal interest in his students have earned him several awards for excellent teaching, talked about Carolina’s history and many of its challenges. A UNC faculty member since 1967, Armitage specializes in 17th- and 20th-century English and Canadian literature.

The Memorial Grove is available to former students, faculty and staff, their families, current and former trustees and members of the General Alumni Association. English Professor Bland Simpson ’70, who is an authority on the cemetery’s history and has written about it for the Carolina Alumni Review, spoke briefly to those gathered, saying, “When the sun lifts up out of the Atlantic … a portion of the very first eastern light to strike Chapel Hill of a morning illuminates these oaks and these pines and warms this, our Memorial Grove.” His full remarks are available online.

This year’s recipients of Distinguished Alumnus and Alumna Awards are:

  • Ana Almeida Gazzola ’74 (MA, ’78 PhD), who is Titular Professor of Literature and rector of the Federal University of Minas Gerais in her native Brazil. Gazzola earned her master’s from UNC in Romance languages and her doctorate in comparative literature. A teacher, faculty leader and published scholar, she is a prominent and decorated figure in higher education in Brazil. Gazzola has kept in touch with faculty mentors at UNC and has encouraged her students to pursue graduate work in Chapel Hill.
  • Thomas Forrest Kelly ’64, Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music and chair of the department of music at Harvard University, where he earned advanced degrees after majoring in French at UNC. His grandfather, Archibald Henderson (class of 1898), was one of UNC’s first Kenan professors. His cousin, Lyman Cotten ’31, also was a UNC professor. After graduating from Carolina, Kelly studied in Paris with the renowned organist and composer Jean Langlais and did work at the Institut de Musicologie, the Institut Gregorien, and the Schola Cantorum in Paris and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. The author of seven books, he has served as chair of Harvard’s music department since 1999.
  • James Arthur Merchant ’73 (DrPH), who is dean of the University of Iowa College of Public Health. Merchant served on the Carolina faculty for two years and then became director of the Division of Respiratory Disease at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Known as a scientist and advocate for workplace safety and health standards, Merchant did his early research in North Carolina on byssinosis. He helped define the problem of brown lung emanating from exposure to cotton dust, and his work led to OSHA’s issuance of the cotton dust standard. More recently, he has worked to increase attention to hazards in rural and agricultural settings.
  • Roy Hampton Park Jr. ’61, who with his family created the Roy H. Park Fellowships for graduate students in Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 1977. The family’s Triad Foundation’s support to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication is equivalent to a $40 million endowment. Park and his family’s foundation gave UNC a major gift to name the 5,000-square-foot Park Library in 1999; the Roy H. Park Distinguished Visiting Professor Program; and the Roy H. Park Lecture Series. Park is president and CEO of Park Outdoor Advertising in Ithaca, N.Y., where he also supports the Cornell Graduate School of Management.

Other University Day highlights included performances by student musicians.

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