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University News

A message from the chancellor: Hortense McClinton and Henry Owl

On May 13, we celebrate the naming of two buildings in honor of groundbreaking heroes in Carolina’s history: Hortense McClinton, the first African American faculty member, and Henry Owl, the first American Indian and the first person of color to enroll at our University.

Photos of the Henry Owl Building and Hortense McClinton Residence Hall
(Photos by Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Carolina Community,

Congratulations again to our Class of 2022. Despite the cold weather, it was wonderful to be with you at Kenan Stadium on Sunday. I hope you were as inspired as I was by Frank Bruni’s call to count your blessings and not tally your slights as you head into life’s next great adventure. We can’t wait to see you back in Chapel Hill soon.

We have another important celebration on campus this week. Tomorrow, we celebrate the naming of two buildings in honor of groundbreaking heroes in Carolina’s history: Hortense McClinton, the first African-American faculty member, and Henry Owl, the first American Indian and the first person of color to enroll at our University. They were game changers on our campus and they are a shining example of resilience and perseverance in our community. As we announced last fall, they broke down barriers and paved the way for the many who came after them, making Carolina the more diverse place it is today.

When asked why she taught a course on institutional racism, Hortense McClinton said “if you’ve been taught a certain thing all your life, you have to learn to know something different.” Our University has a history, and a campus landscape, that has often excluded important voices. Tomorrow’s ceremony is one step that we are taking among many to learn and teach something different. It will be a momentous day in our University’s history as we aim to further diversify our campus landscape.

We will be livestreaming the event at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 13. Please join us.

We conducted a thorough and thoughtful process to get to this day and I want to thank several groups who made this moment in our history possible. Thank you to the History, Race and a Way Forward Commission for their hard work that allowed these names to be added. We are grateful to the Board of Trustees for lifting the moratorium on name removal, and for voting to honor these two remarkable Tar Heels. Thanks to the Naming Committee for their selection and recommendation of names. And thank you to all the members of our community who submitted recommendations and have supported our efforts to get to this special day.

Sincerely,

Kevin M. Guskiewicz
Chancellor