My Best Friend

Daughter, sister, aunt, wife, Carolina mom, grandmother, colleague, volunteer, leader, supporter, skier, Tar Heels fan, Tufts alumna, friend.

Smart, charming, hard-working, determined, resourceful, attractive, engaging, helpful, confident, unflappable, fun, funny, caring, supportive, strategic, modest, accomplished, honest, discreet.

They met in their 20s and married when he was 30. His first impression of her was that she had the happiest and most enveloping eyes and that she was bright, attractive, hard-working and amazingly productive.

Douglas S. Dibbert ’70

Douglas S. Dibbert ’70

Born in Park Ridge, Ill., she is the fourth of six children. Because her younger brother and sister were several years her junior, and because she sported a blond ponytail for much of her early childhood, she often was referred to as the “little princess” by her older sisters and brother.

She attended parochial girls’ schools in Bay City and Birmingham, Mich., before enrolling at Tufts University, where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in political science and competed as a member of the (snow) ski team.

She moved to Washington, D.C., after college and worked as a legislative assistant for a northern Virginia congressman while he worked as executive assistant to a senator from Michigan. He proposed to her on a bench outside the National Cathedral, and they were married in Birmingham, Mich., honeymooned in Bermuda and Jupiter, Fla., and lived in a townhouse in northern Virginia, where two years later the first of their two sons was born.

While on a holiday trip to see his mother, they visited Chapel Hill, where, unprompted, she volunteered that “you could convince me to move to North Carolina, if we could live in Chapel Hill.” A few months later, she spotted an advertisement for a job that she read to him. When he responded that “there is only one place I’d be interested in doing that job,” she replied, “This is that place.”

Within months of relocating to Chapel Hill, she gave birth to their second son. While raising their boys, she also became active in the University Woman’s Club and the Chapel Hill Service League, of which she became president. She later was co-director of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Downtown Commission.

Shortly after their sons were enrolled in a nearby independent school, she began work at that same school — serving a dozen years as director of development and public relations. Soon after both of their sons became Carolina undergraduates, she became director of development and external relations for the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. For more than a dozen years, she was greatly inspired by the remarkable research and patient-centered care of the doctors, nurses and other caregivers. She drew strength from the courage of the many patients she visited and grateful for the generosity of donors. She was proud of the vision shown by the N.C. General Assembly when it funded the N.C. Cancer Hospital and the University Cancer Research Fund.

She was a national leader among her peers. She was elected president of the National Association of Cancer Center Development Officers and received that association’s first Lisa Considine Service Award.

When Carolina’s new chancellor invited her to become her chief of staff, she moved to South Building, bringing her much-admired professional skills, deep knowledge of the University, extensive personal relationships and remarkable work ethic. For more than three years, she managed the uncertainty and challenges that came daily (and often hourly), providing leadership, support and reassurance to all.

With the public launch of “For All Kind: The Campaign for Carolina” last fall, she returned to development as assistant vice chancellor for principal and major gifts and continues to work closely with the chancellor, campaign volunteer leaders, senior administrators, campus development colleagues, and donors.

Shortly after Labor Day, she and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. We each have long known that life is a journey in which we all are in search of the same destination — inner peace — personally and professionally. We know our titles that matter most are personal, not professional.

You may recognize her as Debbie. To our remarkable sons Brian ’05 and Michael ’03 (and his wonderful wife, Carolyn), she is Mom. For our adorable grandchildren Cassidy, Jamison and Teddy she is MeMe. I am forever grateful to have long known her as my wife, my roommate and my best friend.

“I promise to love and to respect, to care and to console, to share the sorrows and joys that lie ahead.” – Sept. 9, 1978

Yours at Carolina,

Doug signature




Douglas S. Dibbert ’70

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