Five to Receive Honorary Degrees at Commencement

Five individuals who have distinguished themselves in the fields of religious scholarship, business, higher education, law and elected government will receive honorary degrees on May 9 at UNC’s spring Commencement.

The recipients are:

  • Julius L. Chambers ’62 (LLBJD) , pioneering civil rights attorney, director of UNC’s Center for Civil Rights and chancellor emeritus of N.C. Central University.
  • William A. Graham ’65, dean of Harvard Divinity School and renowned religious scholar and author. He was a Morehead Scholar at UNC.
  • Maurice J. Koury ’48, president of Carolina Hosiery, commercial developer, former trustee and a longtime supporter of the University’s academic and athletic programs.
  • William O. McCoy ’55, former interim chancellor and UNC System vice president for finance, a longtime supporter and former vice chairman of the board of BellSouth Corp.
  • William F. Winter, a lawyer who is a former Mississippi legislator and governor and a renowned advocate for social and political reform in the South.

Chancellor James Moeser will preside at the Commencement ceremony, to begin at 9:30 a.m. in Kenan Memorial Stadium. Chambers will be the featured speaker. Chambers, Koury, McCoy and Winter will receive honorary doctor of laws degrees; Graham will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters.

Chambers, a native of Mount Gilead, graduated summa cum laude from NCCU in 1958 and went on to receive his master’s degree in history from the University of Michigan and law degree from UNC. At UNC, Chambers was chosen as editor in chief of the N.C. Law Review, the first African-American to hold this title in any historically white law school in the South. Chambers graduated first in his class in 1962 and taught at Columbia University Law School while earning a master’s degree in law.

In 1964, Chambers opened a law firm in Charlotte that eventually would become the first integrated firm in the state. Chambers and his partners, James E. Ferguson II and Adam Stein, argued several significant civil rights cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, including Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, the landmark 1971 case that led to federally mandated busing to desegregate schools.

In 1984, Chambers became director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Chambers left that position in 1993 to become chancellor of NCCU. He retired in June 2001 and returned to his law practice – now Ferguson Stein Chambers Wallas Adkins Gresham & Sumter, P.A. He continues to direct UNC’s Center for Civil Rights, based in the law school.

Graham, a Raleigh native, graduated summa cum laude from UNC in comparative literature. He went on to receive his master’s degree and a doctorate in the comparative history of religion and Islamic studies from Harvard.

Graham has been on the Harvard faculty since 1973 and was appointed dean of Harvard Divinity School in 2002. His scholarly work focuses on early Islamic religious history, and textual traditions and challenges in the history of world religion. He has written several books on religion, including Divine Word and Prophetic Word in Early Islam, which received the American Council of Learned Societies’ History of Religions Prize in 1978.

Graham is the Murray A. Albertson professor of Middle Eastern studies and the John Lord O’Brian professor of divinity at Harvard. He chaired the committee on the study of religion from 1987 through 1990, directed the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies from 1990 through 1996 and chaired the department of Near Eastern languages and civilizations from 1997 through 2002, among other professional responsibilities.

In 2000, Graham received the Award for Excellence in Research and Islamic History and Culture from the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture in Istanbul.

Graham has been a member of the advisory board for UNC’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, based in the College of Arts and Sciences, since 1992.

Koury, a Burlington native, graduated from UNC with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He is a commercial developer and the owner and president of Carolina Hosiery Mills Inc. in Burlington.

Koury has devoted significant time and personal resources toward academic and athletic initiatives benefiting UNC students. He served on UNC’s Board of Trustees for two terms, chairing the board’s student affairs and development committees. He served two terms as president of the Educational Foundation Inc. and chaired its investment committee for 15 years.

He was a leader in the campaign to build the Dean E. Smith Center – doubling his initial gift to ensure air conditioning for the arena – and has given to the schools of dentistry and medicine, Kenan-Flagler Business School, the College of Arts and Sciences, the department of athletics and other University areas.

Koury’s generosity is symbolized throughout campus: Kenan-Flagler’s Koury Auditorium, Koury Natatorium, Koury Library in the George Watts Hill Alumni Center and other campus sites. He established the Edna J. Koury Distinguished Professorship in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1987 to honor his mother. The $333,000 gift, matched by $167,000 in state funds, brought an internationally renowned scholar to the philosophy department.

Koury has received UNC’s William Richardson Davie Award, the highest honor given by the trustees, and the General Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Medal.

McCoy, a Snow Hill native, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UNC with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. From 1955 through 1959, he was a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps. He went on to receive his master’s degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968.

In 1994, he retired from his position as vice chairman of the board of BellSouth Corp., following a 35-year career in the telecommunications industry. From 1995 through 1999, he was vice president for finance for the UNC System. In April 1999, McCoy was appointed acting chancellor when then-Chancellor Michael Hooker ’69 took a leave of absence. After Hooker’s death two months later, McCoy was named interim chancellor in July, a post he held until August 2000. He is a partner with Franklin Street Partners in Chapel Hill.

McCoy chaired the National Development Council during UNC’s Bicentennial Campaign and helped plan for the Carolina First campaign, the multi-year private fund-raising campaign now under way. He is on the campaign’s steering committee.

McCoy was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece, UNC’s oldest and highest honorary organization, and has received the William Richardson Davie Award and the GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal. He is a member of several UNC boards and committees.

Winter, a native of Grenada, Miss., graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1943 and won a seat in the state’s legislature in 1948, while pursuing a law degree at the university. He was a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives until 1956. He would go on to become the state’s treasurer, lieutenant governor and governor.

He also was an infantry officer in World War II and the Korean War.

Winter led the creation of the Foundation for the Mid South and for 12 years was chairman of MDC Inc., a Chapel Hill-based nonprofit dedicated to social and economic improvement in the South. He served as president of the National Civic League and appointed by then-President Clinton to be vice chairman of the President’s Initiative on Race advisory board. Winter is a member of the board of advisers for UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South.

Winter is a contributing author on three books about Mississippi’s history and has held several academic positions, including a fellowship in Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. The William F. Winter Teacher Scholar Loan Program provides loans for Mississippi college students who want to pursue careers in teaching.

Winter is a partner in the Jackson, Miss., law firm of Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis, P.A.

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