The University dedicated a campus memorial honoring the late Sen. Paul Wellstone ’65 and his wife, Sheila, on Tuesday, helping mark the University’s 211th birthday.
Earlier in the day, UNC observed University Day in ceremonies that included the awarding of the 2004 Distinguished Alumna and Alumnus Awards to five alumni, followed by a keynote address on “People and Jobs on the Move: Implications for Higher Education” by James H. Johnson Jr., William Rand Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of management in UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Chancellor James Moeser dedicated the “Paul and Sheila Wellstone Memorial Garden” at the memorial’s site beside Murphey Hall. Wellstone, who also earned his doctorate from Carolina in 1969, represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. A plane crash on Oct. 25, 2002, took the lives of Paul and Sheila Wellstone, their daughter, three campaign staffers and two pilots.
The memorial features three benches on a brick patio in a landscaped area. Each bench bears a quote from Wellstone that captures his philosophy of public service, including one that reads, “Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives. It’s about lessening human suffering and it’s about advancing the cause of peace and justice.”
Speakers included Joel Schwartz, an adjunct professor of public policy and professor emeritus of political science, and Gene Nichol, dean of UNC’s School of Law. The two led an effort that raised $20,000 for the memorial. Wellstone was a former student of Schwartz’s and had campaigned in support of Nichol’s unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Colorado.
Schwartz and Nichol said they see the benches as a fitting memorial for Wellstone, who believed that “we need to replace isolationism with fellowship. We need to talk about community, about justice, about the goodness of America.”
Wellstone was a professor of political science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., from 1969 to 1990. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1990.
In his University Day keynote address, Johnson stressed the challenges that colleges and universities will face in coming years because of dramatic demographic and economic changes occurring now in North Carolina and around the world. Two trends, he said, are converging to affect the nation’s economy: The “browning of America,” created by a sharp rise in minority groups, driven largely by immigrant populations; and the “graying of America” – the combination of an growing portion of the population aged 45 or older followed by the results of the “baby bust” and a predicted labor shortage by 2010.
The trend of outsourcing manufacturing jobs to offshore vendors also is rapidly moving into other “knowledge” sectors, he said, including financial services. Each of these areas are significant to North Carolina, he said, noting that the state has lost high-tech jobs at twice the national rate since 2000.
Economists downplay the long-term significance of offshore outsourcing, Johnson said, but he doesn’t agree, based on the research he has done on the way demographics are shifting regarding minorities and an aging population.
How will UNC react to those changes, he asked, particularly in regard to its admissions practices and its faculty staffing in the future? He exhorted the University to become “intellectually entrepreneurial, to address the problems of the world.”
“We must teach students not merely to understand the world but to change it,” he said.
Johnson directs the Urban Investment Strategies Center in the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC. The center seeks innovative ways to revitalize distressed communities and narrow the gap between haves and have-nots. Among its projects is the Durham Scholars Program, a year-round educational initiative for youth in northeast and central Durham.
Johnson researches topics including community and economic development; poverty and public policy in urban America; workforce diversity; and the impact of offshore movement of white collar jobs on urban competitiveness. His areas of expertise include causes and consequences of inequality in American society and entrepreneurial approaches to poverty alleviation, job creation and community development.
The University Day ceremony also included the presentation of the 2004 Distinguished Alumna and Alumnus Awards to:
The University Day ceremony marked the 211th birthday of the nation’s oldest public university. The UNC Board of Trustees created University Day to commemorate the laying of the cornerstone of Old East, the first state University building, on Oct. 12, 1793. The University was chartered by the N.C. General Assembly in 1789 and welcomed its first students in 1795.
University Day became a college holiday in 1877. This year, UNC classes were suspended for three hours so that students, faculty and staff can attend the ceremony.