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For immediate use

June 24, 2002 -- No. 362

UNC wins grant to implement recognition for student service

UNC News Services


CHAPEL HILL -- Students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who demonstrate outstanding commitment to community volunteer work will be able to graduate with "distinction in public service" thanks to Strowd Roses Inc., a new nonprofit foundation based in Chapel Hill.

In its first gift to the university, the foundation donated $15,000 to the Carolina Center for Public Service, said center director Dr. Lynn Blanchard. The grant will fund and promote the first year of a new public service recognition program expected to begin next January. The center will seek additional private funding to sustain the program in years to come.

"Every year literally thousands of young people come to UNC with the potential to make a difference and to build a life-long sense of civic duty," Blanchard said. "The ‘Distinction in Public Service’ initiative is a commitment by the university to help its students realize that potential."

A committee of faculty, staff and students designing the program anticipates offering the distinction to any undergraduate or graduate student who:

performs at least 300 hours of community service during their years at Carolina;

completes academic service-learning courses that include placements at community agencies;

attends skill-building workshops; and

writes or presents a summary reflecting on the experiences.

Blanchard estimated that fulfilling the requirements will take two years. Students who do so will have "Distinction in Public Service" printed on their transcripts, receive certificates and be recognized in the commencement program when they graduate.

Already, UNC students perform thousands of hours of community service. Leslie Gydos, coordinator of Volunteer Orange!, the volunteer center for Chapel Hill and Orange County, said students are a primary source of volunteers for many community agencies. "The proposed program to develop and recognize distinction in public service will make the already positive contributions of UNC students much more powerful," she said.

In a letter to the foundation, Chancellor James Moeser pledged his support for the program, which will underscore public service as a major part of Carolina's mission.

"The university has a history of service in partnership with the community, and I am committed to building on this tradition through public engagement," he wrote. "This program will help prepare our students to make a difference in the world."

Strowd Roses' gift counts toward the goal of the Carolina First campaign, a multi-year effort to position UNC as the nation's leading public university. The campaign goal and the total raised to date will be announced in October.

The foundation, dedicated to supporting the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community, was established last year with funds from the estates of the late Irene Strowd and her sister, the late Gladis Adams, in memory of Strowd's husband, Gene, and his love of roses.

Gene Strowd was a Chapel Hill alderman and co-owner of the former Johnson Strowd Ward Furniture Co., a mainstay on Franklin Street from the years following World War II until 1979, when Strowd retired. He was a president of the Chapel Hill Rose Society and won the American Rose Society's Silver Honor Medal.

In 1987, Strowd proposed creation of a public rose garden on land owned by the Town of Chapel Hill. The town agreed, and Strowd and the town's parks and recreation department designed and planted the garden in the Chapel Hill Community Center Park at 120 S. Estes Drive. Dedicated in 1990, the Gene Strowd Community Rose Garden now contains more than 350 bushes representing some 130 varieties of roses.

Gene Strowd died in 1991 and Irene, in 2000.

"We’re thankful that the foundation’s generosity is enabling us to move forward on this initiative." said Blanchard. "Strowd Roses’ support at this phase in the project is key to its long-term success."

The ideals of the Distinction in Public Service program mesh well with the Strowds’ desire to give back to the community, said Dr. Ed Norfleet, a member of foundation’s board of directors and vice chair of the UNC medical school’s anesthesiology department. "Gene was a real servant to the community, and the program looked like something that he would certainly smile upon," he said.

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(Atkinson is a graduate of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication from Roanoke, Va.)

Note: For more information on the foundation, visit the Web site,

UNC contact: Dr. Lynn Blanchard,, 919-843-7568