The Spell of Chapel Hill Captivates

What does Chapel Hill mean to you?

Chapel Hill is Franklin Street, Bill Friday, Dean Smith, the Old Well, the Arboretum, Kenan Stadium and drop-add. For most of us it is all these and more. It’s people. It’s memories. It’s the sights and sounds of the oldest and the most beautiful state university in this country.

Do you remember your first day of class, the first exam, the terror? Do you remember writing that I5-page essay on the role of Russia in the Crimean War, how the sun came up as you put the final words on page 14-and-a-half? When the old prof with the gray beard said your paper contained “remarkable insight?” Or the excitement that came as that special professor opened your eyes to ancient truths or made inert gasses come alive?

Do you remember standing in line to get tickets for a game in Carmichael? (Yes, I know some of you were waiting for a ball game in Woollen and others are still hoping to get into the new Student Activities Center!)

Things in Chapel Hill have changed for all of us. For some, it is disturbing to realize the Tin Can or our favorite tree may be no longer. Buildings that we don’t recognize change the feel of a remembered favorite spot. Some of those special people who opened our eyes and ears to the world are no longer with us.

Wherever I go, Carolina alumni are always anxious to learn how things are in Chapel Hill. Many accuse me of living out a fantasy. I am. It is special to live in Chapel Hill, to work at UNC, to walk down Franklin Street and across the campus, to pass the Old Well, to see the excitement on the faces of students, to share the joys of Carmichael moments, to sympathize over the anxieties of final exams, to revel in the anticipation of spring and those beautiful dogwoods and azaleas.

I find what alumni care about most is not just buildings and places. They care about people, classmates, their professors — even those who were tough but helped them find the way.

Chapel Hill is as exciting as always. And Carolina continues to be special. That I feel this way should not surprise you. But others — more objective — who have never lived in Chapel Hill or attended the University recognize Carolina’s unique charm, beauty and excellence.

Richard Moll, presently Dean of Admissions at the University of California, Santa Cruz, formerly Director of Admissions at Vassar and Bowdoin Colleges, and once an admissions official at Harvard and Yale, is the author of a fascinating book recently published entitled The Public Ivys — A Guide to America’s Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities. Moll identifies eight public universities (UNC-CH, the universities of California, Michigan, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Miami of Ohio, and William and Mary) at which a student may receive a superb undergraduate education — equal to or better than that which can be found at any of the ivy league colleges — and for a fraction of the cost.

Here is Moll’s opening paragraph about Carolina:

The University of North Carolina is not known as ‘Chapel Hill’ by accident — North Carolina may have the best college town in America. Chapel Hill’s size, atmosphere, appearance, location, resources, and spirit are difficult to surpass. Yes, Williamsburg, Virginia, makes the more perfect postcard; Boston is more cosmopolitan, Palo Alto has ideal weather; Austin, Texas, is ascending … but Chapel Hill is the College Town. Time magazine pegged it as one of the dozen best places to live in America. And one newspaperman said, “The spell of Chapel Hill captivates.” … No one seems to know how or why it happened, or what ingredients the perfect college town must have, but it all somehow came together here.

What more can I say …

Yours at Carolina,

Doug signature




Douglas S. Dibbert ’70