Honors Program to Grow

A $5 million gift will increase the number of first-year students in UNC’s honors program by 30 percent and recognize the contributions of two alumni by creating five professorships in their names.

The gift, from an anonymous donor, qualifies for a $2.5 million grant from the N.C. Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust, bringing the gift’s total value to $7.5 million when matching state funds become available.

These recent professorships, which will allow the honors program in the College of Arts and Sciences to offer more courses, will honor Peter T. Grauer ’68 and William B. Harrison Jr. ’66. Grauer, chairman and president of Bloomberg LP in New York, has chaired the honors advisory board since July 1997. Harrison, retired chairman of JPMorganChase and Co., received the William R. Davie Award in 2004, the highest honor bestowed by the UNC Board of Trustees. Both men live in Greenwich, Conn.

The gift expands a program that has long been nationally recognized by The Fiske Guide to Colleges as “one of the best and most accessible in the country.” Established in 1954, the program’s quality and accessibility has served as a national model.

“This generous gift provides the means for more great faculty to offer students an especially rich academic experience through special seminars and undergraduate courses,” Chancellor James Moeser said. “That combination will be invaluable in bringing more highly motivated students to Chapel Hill. At the same time, these new faculty chairs honor two of our most distinguished alumni — friends who have served the University with great distinction.”

Of the 3,800 students in the class of 2011, 200 first-year students were invited to join Carolina’s honors program. With the five new professorships — and more available honors courses — 260 students in future classes will receive invitations.

Increasingly, a deciding factor for students who choose Carolina over distinguished peer universities has been a nationally acclaimed honors program. In recent surveys, 58 percent of program participants reported that the honors invitation played a “very important” role in their decision to attend Carolina. A limited ability to serve all qualified students has caused the program to turn away — and often lose to other campuses — many talented applicants.

“Thanks to this gift, we will be able to greatly enhance Carolina’s ability to recruit top undergraduate students. We’re particularly excited by the fact that it will help us keep more of North Carolina’s best and brightest here at home,” said James Leloudis ’77, associate dean for honors.

“[Faculty] routinely identify honors teaching as one of the most rewarding experiences of their careers, and they often turn to the program as a place to develop new undergraduate courses,” he said. “The new professorships will seed the campus even more broadly with creative approaches to teaching and learning, and it will enhance an already important tool for faculty recruitment and retention.”

Any of the 120 honors courses are open on a space-available basis to all students with a B average. Students who are not invited to join the program may apply during their first three semesters. Each year, more than 300 students in 51 departments and curricula complete senior honors theses under the supervision of college faculty.

The gift counts toward the Carolina First Campaign, the multi-year fundraising campaign that has raised more than $2 billion. The drive includes a goal of creating 200 endowed professorships, and these latest five professorships put the campaign over that mark with 204.

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