University News

Carolina names scholarships to honor noteworthy ‘firsts’

Chancellor says "brave firsts" - like the first female graduate, first Native American student and first black undergrads - paved the way for all who followed.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has named existing grants and fellowships to honor courageous people who represent important “firsts” in the University’s history.

The need-based, undergraduate awards and graduate fellowships will recognize 21 members of the Carolina community, including Sallie Walker Stockard, the first woman graduate; Henry Owl, the first American Indian to be admitted; and John L. Brandon, Ralph K. Frasier and LeRoy B. Frasier, Jr., the first black undergraduates.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt was inspired to launch this initiative after a suggestion made by a Carolina student at last year’s Town Hall on race and inclusion. She asked Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions, to chair a special naming committee to develop a process and recommend honorees. Committee members represented the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, the American Indian Center, the department of African, African American and diaspora studies, the School of Education and the office of the vice chancellor for development.

“These brave firsts paved the way for all who followed and thanks to their courageous examples Carolina moved closer to the ideal of the University of the People,” Folt said. “The scholarships that bear the names of these extraordinary people will help deserving students make their own personal journey at Chapel Hill. We believe honoring their contributions to Carolina champions our commitment in word and deed to access and affordability for all.”

Folt and Farmer, who has directed the selection and recruitment of Carolina’s undergraduate student body since 2004, announced the namings on Oct. 11 during Carolina’s annual University Day convocation, which marks the 1793 laying of the cornerstone at Old East, the nation’s first state university building, and the birth of U.S. public higher education.

Farmer also served as the University Day ceremony keynote speaker. Folt selected him for his expertise and influence as a national authority on admissions and enrollment and his sharp focus on access and affordability.

“The people we’re honoring helped us draw closer to our identity as a public university,” Farmer said. “They inspire us to keep learning from one another and to keep moving forward. They remind us that together we can do what none of us can do alone.“

Identifying naming opportunities to honor a wider variety of important figures in Carolina’s history is one of many initiatives underway over the past year to better promote inclusion and diversity on campus.

The University plans to announce more newly named grants and anticipates additional naming opportunities later this year and in the coming years, as well as opportunities for community members to nominate possible honorees. These grants will continue to be awarded exclusively on the basis of demonstrated need.