On a bright, sunny, April afternoon in 1986, George Watts Hill ’22 presented himself at the Alumni House. Mr. Hill sat proudly in a University captain’s chair with his cane and top hat close at hand.
He asked me but one question: “What will the construction costs of the new alumni center total?” I responded: “Seven million dollars.” Mr. Hill quickly indicated he was willing to pledge $3.5 million as a challenge gift, with the balance to come from donations by Carolina alumni. Mr. Hill wanted this building to be inviting to visitors, with traditional furnishings. He hoped that it would serve as our campus home, an active home, one that was lively with the full involvement of alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of Carolina.
For 35 years Mr. Hill served as treasurer of the General Alumni Association. As such, he was well-aware of the association’s decades-long efforts to provide an appropriate home on campus for our growing alumni family. More important, he understood and appreciated the important role that Carolina alumni have played in the history of our University, and he recognized our growing opportunities to involve alumni even more in the life of our University.
In 1992, soon after his 91st birthday, I gave Mr. Hill a complete tour of the Alumni Center. And while the center was not then furnished, his eyes brightly sparkled as he nodded his approval. Mr. Hill was particularly eager for alumni to be reminded that we are a vital part of our University, that our sense of the traditions, values and history of Carolina are essential if UNC is to sustain our legacy of service and excellence. He knew better than anyone that as nicely furnished and as well-constructed as this building might be, programming is critical in achieving the center’s principle purposes. Unfortunately, the same day that we moved the staff into the new Alumni Center, Mr. Hill passed away.
Mr. Hill would be pleased that, as we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Alumni Center, the building that bears his name routinely is identified by campus visitors as their favorite building. Many University faculty and staff as well as alumni have been heard to say, “How did we get by all those years without the Alumni Center?”
Thanks in large measure to the Alumni Center, programming offered by the GAA has expanded greatly. We now provide space and resources as well as full-time staff for our alumni career services. We use the Alumni Center for a number of new student programs and provide space for two student groups sponsored by the GAA — the Order of the Bell Tower (our student alumni association) and the
Clef Hangers (the popular campus male a cappella singing group). Our educational and enrichment programs involving outstanding Carolina faculty have expanded just as greatly, demonstrating how interested alumni and friends are in continuing their intellectual relationship with Carolina. And, as you would expect, our reunions, board meetings, club leaders’ workshops all have been enhanced by the Alumni Center’s facilities.
The Carolina Club dining club continues to prosper with more than 3,500 members. More than 100,000 meals are served per year. Visitors for receptions, dinners and speeches have included luminaries such as President Clinton, the late Charles Kuralt ’55, George Will, Alister Cooke and Maya Angelou, among others. And the Alumni Center’s proximity to both Kenan Stadium and the Smith Center has made it a popular and regular gathering place before and after Carolina home football and basketball games.
Over the past five years, the George Watts Hill Alumni Center has become a greatly welcomed and much-used home for our entire Carolina community. Mr. Hill must be very pleased.
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70