Lloyd Kramer has a way with people that brings out the best in them — and sometimes brings large checks as well.
When he was acting director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Lloyd often had dinner with potential donors to raise money for the program that supports faculty scholarship, leadership and fellowship in the arts and humanities. Once, he so utterly captivated a couple with his deep commitment to the value of the liberal arts that a follow-up lunch yielded a check to the institute for a half-million dollars.
Development officers will attest: A check that size isn’t written that readily too often.
Lloyd, who joined the history faculty at UNC 31 years ago after teaching first at Stanford, then at Northwestern, has held three major administrative positions at UNC, in addition to teaching thousands of future alumni and advising and mentoring undergraduates and graduate students alike. All three roles — building up the institute, chairing the history department for nine years and directing Carolina Public Humanities — cultivate a richer, more vibrant and more intellectually active community.
“The humanities,” he said, “are as important for a vital, healthy society as economics or health care.”
Born in Tennessee, Lloyd grew up in Arkansas and Indiana, and lived in Boston while pursuing a master’s degree. He was drawn to history because it gave him a means to understand the world in which he lived.
He heard what all humanities majors hear: “Everybody said, ‘You’ll never get a job if you study history. Go to law school or business school.’” And he thought about it. But when it came time to send in graduate school applications, he followed his passion, and chose a doctoral program in history at Cornell.
While at UNC, he has held the Dean E. Smith Distinguished Term Professorship and received two prestigious teaching awards, and not just for his penchant for bursting into song during a dry spot in a modern European history class — something from The Doors or The Beatles, maybe — and consistently delivering lectures that students make sure not to miss.
His commitment to students perseveres even when no one is looking. When undergraduates present their honors theses, Lloyd stays through his students and all the others, asking questions that respect and challenge their scholarship and leave them understanding something about their work that they didn’t grasp before.
Lloyd raises the game of those around him and creates a high-functioning team, trusting that everyone will complete their piece of the puzzle. He shares his concerns and foibles and accepts others’.
A colleague said, “He makes everyone feel we’re in this together.”
In 2014, Lloyd became director of what was then called UNC’s Program in the Humanities and Human Values. He worked with his colleagues to change the name to Carolina Public Humanities and to extend the reach of the humanities in schools and communities across the state. He expanded a series of on-campus lectures and seminars by organizing more community discussions — led by faculty speakers at bookstores, community colleges, and the public library — that made room for people to air opposing views on value-laden topics. He also helped to expand Carolina K-12, which provides workshops for public school teachers throughout North Carolina and encourages new approaches to teaching history, politics, culture, literature, and music.
“We’re the moral equivalent of the school of public health,” Lloyd said.
Throughout his career in Chapel Hill, Lloyd has practiced a just-say-yes philosophy. Yes to pulling together major grant proposals; yes to chairing search committees; yes to serving on or leading dozens of committees, councils, advisory boards and task forces. He calls out his appreciation to his team members for even the most mundane tasks.
His service to the GAA has been more than generous. He has spoken at admitted students receptions, served as an enrichment lecturer on GAA tours and moderated the “Consider This” forum. Lloyd served a year as faculty representative to the Board of Directors.
Then there’s his smile: It fills his whole face, his whole body even. After decades of teaching, advising and mentoring and countless committee meetings, Lloyd still loves what he does — so much so that his joy breaks out in a song and a shimmy, showing everyone in the room that you can be a serious scholar and still have fun.
The Faculty Service Award is presented by the GAA Board of Directors.