Around Campus

225 years of Tar Heels: Anne Cates

Anne Cates never worried about being the only woman at a leadership table — even though she often was. As the first female chair of the Board of Trustees, serving her alma mater the best she could was her only focus.

Anne Cates

225 Years.Editor’s note: In honor of the University’s 225th anniversary, we will be sharing profiles throughout the academic year of some of the many Tar Heels who have left their heelprint on the campus, their communities, the state, the nation and the world.

After she graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1953, Anne Cates worked in real estate and raised her children with her husband. When her children were grown, she knew she wanted to come back to her alma mater. After all, she had thought it was the most beautiful place she’d ever seen the first time she saw it.

“I wanted to give my time to education because that’s where the future is,” Cates recalled in a March 2018 interview. “I would just love to do something for the University. And now I’ve done all those things and a few more, too.”

The 1953 Carolina graduate went to work at the General Alumni Association, where she eventually became president. She also served as treasurer and president of the Rams Club and vice chairwoman of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Visitors. She chaired the kickoff celebration of Carolina’s bicentennial campaign, which raised $440 million to support academics.

In 1993, she was appointed to Carolina’s Board of Trustees, and in 1999, she became the first woman to chair the board in the University’s more than 200-year history.

“It was never an issue – that this was a woman or a man. We just got in there and worked hard. I’ve found if you’re honest with people and you really care and you’re trying to do the right thing, it isn’t a problem,” Cates said.