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For immediate use

March 20, 1998 -- No. 250


Former state Rep. Anne Craig Barnes honored for her work on UNC-CH’s behalf

CHAPEL HILL -- Described as a tireless advocate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and its faculty, employees and students, former state Rep. Anne Craig Barnes has been honored with the university’s prestigious Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award for 1998.

Barnes represented Orange County voters for 15 years in the N.C. General Assembly, where she was a strong advocate for the university and its needs, which included higher faculty salaries, mandatory sprinkler systems for fraternities and sororities, and the development of continuing education and training programs aimed at working schoolteachers and principals.

Some 200 of Barnes’ colleagues and friends attended the award ceremony scheduled for 3 p.m. today (March 20) at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center. The award recognizes a woman who has made outstanding contributions to UNC-CH. It honors Cornelia Phillips Spencer, who championed re-opening the university after the Civil War.

On March 20, 1875, after word came that her goal would be realized, Spencer climbed to the top of South Building on campus and rang its bell to proclaim the good news. Created during UNC-CH’s Bicentennial Observance in 1993, the Bell Award is presented annually on the joint anniversary of Spencer’s birth and her ringing of the bell.

Of Barnes, Robert Phay, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of political science, said "I can think of no individual who has made a more significant contribution to this university during the past fifteen years when she served in the General Assembly. Time after time, she went to bat for the university and its many needs. Now is the appropriate time for UNC at Chapel Hill to recognize its debt to her."

Said Dr. William F. Little, Distinguished Professor emeritus of chemistry, "Anne is truly an outstanding leader and contributor to the well-being of the state and the university. For many years, she was acknowledged to be one of the leading and most effective members of the N.C. General Assembly, where (she championed) public education in North Carolina. Her long-standing support of UNC . . . should be recognized."

While serving in the N.C. General Assembly from 1981 to 1996, Barnes sat on a wide range of committees ranging from Appropriations to Ways and Means and chaired the House Education Committee and the Corrections Committee. She stepped down from the legislature in 1996 for personal reasons after building a solid reputation among Democrats and Republicans alike for being an effective, insightful and well-prepared leader, especially in the areas of prison reform and education.

Barnes led a committee that studied structured sentencing, which eliminated parole for serious crimes and prison time for minor offenses. Barnes advocated effective alternatives to incarceration as being a better use of taxpayers’ money.

In education, Barnes introduced and sponsored the $1.8 billion statewide school bond that voters approved, and fought for fair wages for the lowest-paid state employees. State wages now are automatically tied to national poverty figures. She also pushed for mandatory sprinkler systems to be installed in sororities and fraternities.

Barnes was a proponent of women’s concerns, serving on the Women’s Forum of North Carolina and N.C. Equity, Inc. In 1996, she was named one of the most powerful women in the Triangle by the Triangle Business Journal.

In a 1996 newspaper article, Barnes said being one of fewer than 30 women in the 170-member General Assembly was tough. "If a man makes a mistake, then there’s no thought given to that except, ‘Well, he made a stupid mistake.’ But if a woman makes a stupid mistake, someone will almost always say or think, ‘Isn’t that just like a woman?’

She was a motivating force behind the establishment of the Carolina Women’s Center and the 100 Years of Women at Carolina celebration, according to Dr. Marsha S. Collins, assistant vice chancellor for women’s issues and associate professor of romance languages.

"In spring 1997, she e-mailed the UNC administration wanting to know, ‘When is the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Women’s Center’ (and) ‘Where are the parades, balloons and marching bands celebrating 100 Years of Women at Carolina’ ?" Collins said. "Well, due in no small part to the hard work and persistence of Rep. Barnes, the Carolina Women’s Center is well on its way and we are enjoying a year-long, campuswide celebration of women on this campus: past, present and future."

Barnes was a member of the UNC-CH Board of Visitors from 1992 to 1996. These days, Barnes, a native of Gaston County, spends her time enjoying her three granddaughters, restocking her kitchen, baking bread and reading and writing fiction in her southern Orange County home

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News Services contact: Karen Stinneford, 919-962-8415.