Spirit of Innovation Marks University Day

The University celebrated its 217th birthday on Tuesday on a theme of innovation and entrepreneurship.

A year ago, Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 appointed the Innovation Circle, chaired by Lowry Caudill ’79 and led by special assistant Judith Cone. Members include alumni and friends with extensive experience leading innovation in science, business, medicine, nonprofits and academia. Their efforts have been supported by a faculty and staff working group and a student team.

The Innovation Circle’s work builds on a major priority Thorp has emphasized since becoming chancellor in 2008 — finding new ways for the University to enhance the impact of its teaching, research and service through innovation and entrepreneurship.

The University has raised more than $11 million for a new $125 million campaign supporting an ambitious plan to bring the power of innovation and entrepreneurship to bear on the world’s biggest problems. “Innovate@Carolina: Important Ideas for a Better World” is a roadmap developed by the Innovation Circle.

“The people of North Carolina and around the world have invested tremendous resources in research universities because they believe that the quest for knowledge improves people’s lives,” Thorp said.

“At critical times in our history, the people have looked to this University for answers. And Carolina has always responded.”

The featured speaker at the annual University Day convocation, the anniversary of the laying of the Old East cornerstone, was Heather Munroe-Blum ’83 (PhD), a highly regarded innovator in higher education and the principal and vice chancellor of McGill University in Montreal.

>Munroe-Blum, who earned a doctorate with distinction in epidemiology from Carolina, has dedicated her career to advancing higher education, science and innovation in Canada. She has advised governments around the world on the role of universities in advancing international competitiveness.

“Now, more than ever, the United States needs innovative universities like UNC … because the electronic mobility of the Information Age and the unprecedented mobility of the people around the world are redrawing the map of global influence, and innovation will define its contours,” Munroe-Blum said.

“Today, we are being asked to examine how we can all do more to make our world a safer, more equitable, healthier and more prosperous place. We are being challenged to do good, better.”

UNC presented its Distinguished Alumna and Alumnus Awards to five Tar Heels who have made outstanding contributions to humanity.

This year’s recipients are:

  • Dr. J. Larry Jameson III ’76 (’81 MD, ’81 PhD), dean of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and one of the nation’s distinguished specialists in internal medicine and endocrinology. Jameson is noted for his research, which has resulted in a greater understanding of genetic causes of hormonal disorders. He also is known for being an efficient professor where he trained more than 50 doctoral students and a dozen or so graduate students. His undergraduate degree was in chemistry; he earned his medical degree from UNC simultaneously with his doctorate in biochemistry.
  • Harry Louis Jones Sr. ’72 (’74 MPA), county manager of Mecklenburg the state’s largest metropolitan area, since 2000. Jones directs an annual budget of nearly $1.4 billion and oversees services delivered by 4,800 employees to 900,000 residents. Jones is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, a nonpartisan organization created by Congress to assist federal, state and local governments. He is a former member of the UNC Board of Visitors and is a 2009 recipient of the Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award, given annually at the Black Alumni Reunion.
  • Harry Martin ’42, one of the state’s most recognized and long-serving jurists. Martin graduating from Carolina with a degree in political science, Martin served in World War II in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific. After the war, he earned a law degree from Harvard University and then moved to Asheville. He served as a Superior Court judge and on the N.C. Court of Appeals before becoming a N.C. Supreme Court justice in 1982. He was elected to the N.C. Supreme Court three times, serving until 1992. Since 2000, Martin has served as a chief justice of the Cherokee Supreme Court in North Carolina.
  • Alane Mason ’86, vice president and senior editor at W.W. Norton & Co. Mason founded and now presides over Words Without Borders, an organization that translates written pieces into English on a global scale. Words Without Borders translated more than 1,100 pieces from more than 110 countries since 2003. Mason received her undergraduate degree in creative writing with highest honors in English.
  • Charles Shaffer Jr. ’64 (’67 JD), vice president for institutional advancement at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta. Shaffer was a Morehead Scholar at UNC, majoring in history, and played on Coach Dean Smith’s first Carolina basketball team. After law school and a legal career as a litigator, notably with King & Spalding in Atlanta, Shaffer co-chaired the Carolina First Campaign, which raised $2.38 billion to become the most successful fundraising effort in UNC history. He was a member of the Atlanta Nine, which presented the city as the host for the 1996 summer Olympics to the International Olympic Committee. Shaffer carried the torch at a location of his choice — the Old Well.

In keeping with a tradition of celebrating milestones on University Day, Carolina dedicated Venable Hall and Murray Hall, which opened this semester in the second phase of the Carolina Physical Science Complex, the largest construction project in the University’s history.

The original Venable Hall, home to the chemistry department since 1925, was demolished in late 2007 and early 2008. The new Venable and Murray halls house the William R. Kenan Jr. Chemistry Library along with department of chemistry classrooms, lecture halls, conference rooms and the department of marine sciences.

Francis P. Venable was a chemistry professor from 1880 to 1930 and president of the University from 1900 to 1914. The original Venable Hall was dedicated on University Day in 1925. Royce W. Murray, Kenan Professor of chemistry, has mentored more than 155 graduate and postdoctoral students and written numerous research articles and four books. He headed an effort that led to construction of Kenan Laboratories, which opened in 1971.

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