2017 University Day

"University Day, is a special tradition at UNC-Chapel Hill…a time to reflect on our past, celebrate our present, anticipate our future, and even more, to remember that Our People Are Carolina."

Chancellor Folt gives remarks at 2017 University Day
University Day, held Thursday October 12, 2017 at Memorial Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

CHANCELLOR CAROL L. FOLT University Day Address

Thurs., Oct. 12, 2017

Memorial Hall


Good morning. Please be seated. Welcome esteemed guests, members of the platform party, faculty, students, staff and friends.

As Carolina’s Chancellor, I am honored you’re here to celebrate her 224th birthday. The birth of the public university in America took place here in Chapel Hill when in 1795 the first student enrolled at Carolina. Carolina began with a dream and a grand vision for the future rising from ideals people fought for in the revolutionary war – lux et libertas, enlightenment to protect liberty. University Day, is a special tradition at UNC-Chapel Hill… a time to reflect on our past, celebrate our present, anticipate our future, and even more to remember that Our People Are Carolina.

Last year, Steve Farmer and I took a heartfelt request from graduate student Shelby Dawkins Law – to find ways to increase the visibility and reflect the diversity of the courageous people who have and continue to build our university – and made it a reality. That day, we named scholarships and grants in honor of twenty-one pioneers who helped to change and advance Carolina’s historic, public mission.

Two weeks ago, we held a special reception attended by five honorees, their relatives, relatives of the other honorees, and our new scholarship recipients. The best part was seeing our students light up as they listened to and met these amazing pioneers and their families. With us were pioneers like…

  • Karen Parker, award winning journalist, civil rights activist and brilliant writer. She was the 1st African American woman to graduate from Carolina in 1965; her journals tell a courageous story of those days.
  • Dr. Hortense McClinton, UNC’s 1st African American faculty member, who joined the School of Social Work in 1966, and whose far-ranging work and incredible spirit was so beautiful as she walked up to the podium at 99 to greet the crowd.
  • Ralph K. Frasier, who – together with his brother LeRoy and John Brandon – entered Carolina by court order in 1955. Ralph gave a deeply moving tribute to all the pioneers he honored who came before, many of whom were slaves who built the university from its start and whose names will never be known.
  • Patricia Dallas Horoho, a 1982 Carolina nursing graduate who was the 43rd surgeon general of the US Army and the 1st woman and 1st nurse to hold that position; she was recognized by the Red Cross as a “nurse hero.”
  • Ecuadoran citizen, Dr. Santiago Gangotena, who got his PhD in Physics here in 1977 and returned to found in Ecuador a university, now considered Ecuador’s leading university, based on the foundational principles of liberal arts he so admired here.

And today, we are asking you to help select the next group of pioneers to honor – Bridge Builders, people whose work, advocacy and personal example have forged a more inclusive, more unified, more aspirational Carolina.

History always comes down to people, who they are and what they care about. And our honorees today and our speaker all are making history. I’ve found that big dreams beat in the hearts of everyone you meet here. And nowhere has the commitment of our people to achieve a grand vision for the future of Carolina, North Carolina, and people everywhere, been clearer than during the development of our university’s 1st unifying strategic framework and our historic fundraising Campaign just launched last weekend.

Our vision rests on a shared public purpose – to innovate however needed to be the greatest, global, public research university in America; to provide outstanding educational programs at the best and most affordable price for talented students from all backgrounds; to conduct game-changing research and innovate for the public good; and to bring prosperity and happiness to the citizens of the state and beyond.

When I welcome the 4,000 plus new students at convocation or greet our new faculty in the fall, I know that every one of them has a story, a dream. They have passions, they have changes they want to see, and they are determined to be part of making something important happen. These human feelings propel our community, forward, fuel our drive to excellence, and boost our desire to serve and discover.

John F. Kennedy said: “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” We always stand at moments of possible change – potential turning points. Moments when everything making us unique feels on the line are when we push ourselves even harder to achieve the hopes and dreams we hear every day. As we have always done, in the face of both fierce debate and agreement, we must uphold Carolina’s unique mission as the first public university to be a place where great ideas and changes are born and a place where the rights of all people to participate in our democracy are respected, lux et libertas.

In that spirit, I have another gift announcement. Last year, here, I announced we’d received a $20 million challenge gift for two signature programs, the Carolina Covenant and the Morehead-Cain Scholarship. Today I’m thrilled to report we more than met the challenge issued by this generous anonymous donor. While we hoped to double the challenge gift…we ended up raising more than $65 million – more than tripling the original gift – all for student scholarships.

While you savor that, it is my pleasure to recognize important guests in the audience today. We have two former Carolina Chancellors with us today, Bill McCoy and James Moeser. Would you both please stand. [Lead applause.] It is my pleasure to welcome Margaret Spellings, President of the University of North Carolina, who will bring greetings.

[Remarks from Speakers]


It is my distinct pleasure to introduce today’s keynote speaker, Roy Cooper, the 75th governor of the great state of North Carolina. This continues a long tradition of welcoming our state’s Governor to campus during their first year in office to deliver our University Day keynote address.

The son of a schoolteacher, the product of two degrees from the nation’s first public university, the proud father of three daughters who have attended Carolina, Governor Cooper has a distinguished track record of serving the people of our state in different leadership capacities. A former member of the State House, and State Senate, and former Attorney General, Governor Cooper has lived a life of public service and commitment to North Carolinians.

Just last week we both spoke at a groundbreaking event celebrating a $100 million dollar expansion of Pfizer’s manufacturing plant in Sanford, creating new jobs, as they incorporate gene therapy research developed here at Carolina to develop new treatments for rare diseases. The governor and I have had the opportunity to speak at other events focused on the good of North Carolina and our citizens. In March, Governor Cooper joined us as opening keynote speaker at the 4th Annual UNC Clean Tech Summit.

And in April, he helped us open UNC Horizons’ new, state-of-the-art facilities that brought Horizons’ treatment programs under one roof, helping treat women with substance abuse disorders and underlying trauma. The governor also joined us for the Morehead Planetarium renovation ceremony and kick-off of our annual statewide science festival, where he also proclaimed April in North Carolina to be STEM education month. Please join me in welcoming Governor Roy Cooper to the podium to help us celebrate the founding of the nation’s first public university.

[Gov. Cooper Remarks]


To paraphrase Thomas Wolfe when he fondly wrote of Carolina memories and Chapel Hill, the sense of excitement and intellectual stimulation here is “as close to magic as I’ve ever been.” University Day is the right day to think about what makes Carolina magical in our minds. To think about how the people of Carolina must work together to create the Carolina we love, the Carolina that embraces change, and the Carolina we hope to become. And to express our gratitude to the people of North Carolina whose hard-earned tax dollars support our lives, and the thousands of alumni and friends whose philanthropy supports our dreams.

I see hope, aspiration and public service in Carolina people every day, whether they’re working at Habitat for Humanity, in hospitals and clinics in Africa or across NC, preparing our stadiums, buildings and beautiful grounds, speaking and writing about issues that matter to them, or performing, teaching or doing research around the world.

Earlier this month, Joe DeSimone – outstanding professor of Chemistry, talented entrepreneur and winner of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation – joined me and two outstanding public university leaders for a panel discussion reflecting on Higher Education 10 years after the Spellings Commission report. The two other university presidents discussed preparations for their bicentennial celebrations, and Joe dryly noted that he was honored to be on stage with a terrific set of university start-ups.

That’s the irony of our 224th anniversary – we have the mindset and determination of a start-up – while we remember and celebrate our historic past, we set our sights firmly on our future, for the good of our students, our university, the people of North Carolina and the world. And that my friends, is Carolina.

Thank you all for joining us today to celebrate the founding of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I thank the members of the UNC wind ensemble under the direction of conductor Evan Feldman for their inspired performance today. I thank all the people who worked so hard to prepare for this and other lovely events on our campus, and who make sure they are ready to be used again and again. As the UNC wind ensemble plays, please stand and join in singing our Alma Mater, Hark the Sound.