Several months ago, then-GAA-Board Chair Dana Simpson ’96 (’00 JD) and I discussed what may have long been on the minds of many alumni: Am I going to retire before I expire? For a few years, those considering whether to become the GAA’s next chair-elect have conditioned their acceptance on my assurance that they would not have to launch a search for my successor.
I now have more than 40 years of service. In 1982 the most unusual question I was asked by the search committee was whether I would make a 35-year commitment to this job. I quickly said “No, I am not yet thinking about retiring into any job. My wife didn’t even ask for 35 years.” They accepted and respected my response but reminded me Spike Saunders ’25 served in this role for 43 years.
Among the many opportunities of this position is the privilege of preparing and sharing this column. When I started, it became instantly obvious that I would never reach as many alumni at club meetings, reunions and other gatherings as are reached by each issue of this magazine. We redesigned and renamed the magazine (from Alumni Review to Carolina Alumni Review). We expanded our feature writing. While not engaging in investigative reporting, consistently we’ve provided our readers with complete, fair, and balanced coverage of University news, including controversial topics such as the location of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, dismissal of coaches, renaming of Saunders Hall, the seven-year NCAA investigation and the future of the Confederate monument. Through this award-winning magazine, our readers become more fully informed about our alma mater and share their own thoughts, concerns and suggestions.
In this column, I’ve endeavored to share thoughts and perspectives on a variety of topics, events, challenges and persons. Undergraduate admissions remains of interest to many alumni. I’ve frequently drawn on my dozen years of service on the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics to address concerns about college sports. I’ve introduced each new chancellor, reviewed the priorities of each capital campaign, encouraged support for higher education bond campaigns, and in recent years I’ve regularly provided a “year in review.” And yes, I’ve updated readers about the Dibbert family.
The search firm and the search committee will work thoughtfully and carefully, engaging stakeholders, our board and others to identify outstanding candidates. I have complete confidence that a remarkable successor will be chosen and that she/he will bring impressive experience, boundless passion and creative, fresh ideas to lead our association forward to never-imagined new heights — always respecting and understanding that informing and involving Carolina’s 356,000-plus living alumni is a great challenge and a tremendous privilege. Built upon a foundation of meticulously maintained alumni records, with perennially award-winning communications and award-winning programs, loyal and supportive GAA members, continuing strong financials, experienced and talented staff, fully engaged, respected and committed GAA board members and collaborative campus colleagues, the GAA has never been stronger.
Finally, I am most grateful that our family has had the joy of making this journey together. As an Army brat, I never had a home. When the youngest of my four brothers was born, we became a family of seven, but we were a family of seven for only nine short years, during which we lived in nine different residences. My father died tragically in combat in Vietnam. When I came to Carolina as a student in 1966, I no longer had a dad. By the time I graduated, Chapel Hill and Carolina were as much home as I had ever known.
Before retiring, my wife, Debbie, worked at Carolina for nearly 20 years and was a most respected, effective and beloved leader and colleague. Our sons Michael ’03 and Brian ’05 are proud and enthusiastic Carolina alumni. We’ll always consider Chapel Hill and Carolina home.
I’m Doug Dibbert, and I’ll forever be a Tar Heel. Thank you for allowing me to be Yours at Carolina.
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70