Practicing Patience

Several weeks ago, as Roy Williams ’72 was returning from his midday run, he and I happened to meet near the Smith Center. I shared with him that I had brought a one-word message from him to the alumni assembled at a recent William Richardson Davie Dinner sponsored by the Charlotte Carolina Club. The word? “Patience.”

Doug Dibbert ’70

The coach gave me a grateful smile and replied, “Thank you.”

As a new year begins, we could all benefit by exercising greater patience — patience with each other, whether friends, colleagues or family, as well as patience with our governmental leaders, favorite sports teams and even University administrators.

A friend and Carolina alumnus recently observed that we’ve become a “microwave society.” We want what we want when we want it. Too often, anyone we perceive as unable or unwilling immediately to give us what we want, we quickly conclude to be incompetent. We see only through our own eyes and sometimes rush to all-too-harsh judgments.

This is all too common in the world of sports, where every fan is an expert. We want our teams to be undefeated and nationally ranked. Sadly, this perspective also has infected our assessments of higher education — fueled by the multiplying number of magazine rankings.

It has been argued that this growing phenomenon has evolved from the corporate world, where a fixation on changing stock prices and quarterly financial statements have become all-consuming and a long-range perspective seems to have become devalued.

Lost is an appreciation for and an understanding of the impact such impatience can have on our students, faculty and administrators. Carolina’s Board of Trustees’ recent focus on “measures of excellence,” which have been developed in consultation with our University administration, is reassuring and farsighted. These measures (such as the number of classes of 20 students or fewer, the number of endowed professorships, the number of patents issued, the alumni giving rate) will be reviewed over time and can give our University community a sense of our priorities and our progress in achieving our goals.

Understandably, not all needed changes can or should be expected to come quickly. As our campus is experiencing, it takes time to plan and to construct new buildings, but such renovations and construction are critical and will enhance our campus greatly. Similarly, developing new degree and research programs to address critical problems cannot occur overnight, and faculty and administrators deserve and need our patience as they craft such vital initiatives.

Student-athletes are not professionals, and their performance in the classroom will be far more important to them in life man any success they enjoy on the playing courts and fields. Brian, our younger son, as a young athlete once observed that he thought it was better not to be the absolute best but among the best. When asked to explain, he remarked that being the best was very stressful.

Am I making a case for mediocrity? Absolutely not. I’m the oldest of five boys, and I grew up in a very competitive environment. I also know from managing political campaigns that you get to fulfill campaign pledges only if you win. And, yes, winning is fun and far more enjoyable than losing.

Make no mistake: Carolina is a winner in all that is of lasting importance.

We recruit and enroll the brightest students who are taught and mentored by accomplished and dedicated faculty, who in turn are supported by talented staff and led by visionary administrators and trustees. All of us are genuinely motivated by our historic mission of service. And we always have been uniquely fortunate to enjoy and to benefit from the generous support of North Carolina taxpayers and Carolina alumni and friends.

Stewardship, responsibility and accountability should not be compromised. But the solution to every perceived problem is not to dismiss someone. The five-year reviews of deans and vice chancellors are conducted to assist each in performing their important roles. And, in those unfortunate instances where personnel changes must be made, we should insist any change come only after a thoughtful, inclusive process.

So, should campus construction make our visits to campus sometimes frustrating, let’s not blow our horns or vow not to return “until all that construction is over.” And if the Tar Heels happen to lose a game, let’s understand that the players and coaches are much more disappointed than are we. While our entertainment wasn’t as enjoyable as we had hoped, all that is of most importance to our University remains secure. Besides, when you’re No.1, there is only one direction you can go. Remember, the Carolina women’s soccer team has the nation’s longest college sports dynasty, and while it has competed in every Final Four ever held, Anson Dorrance ’74 has led his teams to win the national championship only 18 out of 23 years.



Yours at Carolina,

Doug signature




Douglas S. Dibbert ’70

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