(Editor’s Note: The GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal citations, such as this one, are read to the audience at the awards dinner and then presented as a keepsake to the recipients.)
Max Chapman’s friends will tell you that whatever he does – even if it’s just fishing or rock climbing – he does it with intensity. As Trustee Tim Burnett ’62 explains: “Some people go out for a walk. Max doesn’t go out for a walk; he’s in competition with that hill.”
That intensity served Max well as a sophomore in 1963 when his dramatic field goal in the final seconds of a crucial game gave the Tar Heels a victory over Duke and a spot in the Gator Bowl (which, by the way, they went on to win). It served him well in his legendary career in the futures and options industry on Wall Street and beyond. And it has served Carolina well because, as chair of the Endowment Fund, Max has steered the University investments so deftly and so surely for so long.
Max once told the University Gazette: “There are lots of investment strategies that will work, but if you try to do them all, you will fail; we have to stick to our strategy.” His clarity about the wisdom of growing the endowment through diverse investments and his ability to bring out the talents of the sophisticated money managers on the investment committee have strengthened the University immeasurably.
Davy Davidson ’77, who sits in on quarterly meetings of the investment committee as the GAA’s representative, says that some folks come and go, and some are constant but that Max is the constant face, and he’s a shrewd steward of the University’s money.
The talents Max brings to endowment investment decisions are the talents that enabled him to lead the Wall Street firm of Kidder, Peabody & Co. so successfully as president and CEO and to serve the American Stock Exchange as its vice chair. They’re the abilities that Nomura Securities saw when they invited him to become the first American to join the board of a Japanese financial firm and to serve in several executive positions. They’re also behind Chapman’s recent induction into the Futures Industry Association’s Futures Hall of Fame.
Max has given so much of himself to Carolina, he says, because his years here were pivotal. He struggled with dyslexia in high school. His athletic skills, not his grades, brought him to UNC with a football scholarship. Once here, he discovered he could compete as a scholar, too. He worked hard, earned straight A’s and went on to business school at Columbia where he was president of his class. Carolina gave him the opportunity for success, he says, and he has always been proud and happy about that.
Today, Max splits his time among business investments, charitable work and hobbies. Along with fishing and rock climbing, he loves golf, skiing, hiking and astronomy – an interest he pursues in his own observatory in Wyoming. He is dedicated to wildlife conservation and serves on the board of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which he co-chaired for two years. He owns vintage airplanes from the World War II era – and he flies them. “He has a Marine Corps Corsair, which is a carrier-based aircraft,” Tim Burnett tells us, “and several P-51 Mustangs, which he can fly upside down and inside out.”
And Max has done more for Carolina than manage its endowment. Some time back, his generosity made possible a new golf team facility, the Chapman Center, at Finley Golf Course. He has established a teaching fellowship, served on the board of the Arts and Sciences Foundation and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Foundation, and was a member of the National Development Council. He is a member of the Chancellor’s Club and the Carolina First steering committee. In 1996, he was recognized by the Board of Trustees with the William Richardson Davie Award.
Max’s chief contribution to Carolina, though, is to ensure the University endowment performs as well as it possibly can – a role with no small pressure attached. As Davy Davidson points out, when money’s involved, people care. It’s no small feat, then, that Max must build consensus among the chancellor, the chief financial officer of the University, the chair of the board of trustees and heavy Wall Street hitters. For years, the UNC investment office has been delivering good returns, even through down markets.
A colleague told Business Week that Max is relentless in his pursuit of success. His intensity and drive have benefited Carolina in many ways, and we are grateful that 40-some years after that historic field goal, he still delivers so spectacularly under pressure.
The GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal has been awarded since 1978 to alumni and others who have provided outstanding service to the GAA and/or to the University. The award is presented at the annual Alumni Luncheon on the weekend of reunions and Commencement in May. A list of previous award recipients is available online.
This year’s recipients are Max Chapman ’66 of Scarborough, N.Y., chair of the UNC Endowment Fund; Mary Anne Dickson ’63 of Charlotte, co-chair of the Women’s Leadership Council; Carl Matheson ’57 of Hickory, a past chair of the GAA Board of Directors; and C.D. Spangler ’54 of Charlotte, former president of the UNC System.