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Light and Liberty

Happy Birthday, Carolina

Each year, Carolina observes its founding on Oct. 12, the anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of Old East. Known as University Day, the celebration represents not just the beginning of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but the birth of public higher education in the United States.

Though we weren't able to gather together this year for our traditional ceremony, University Day remains is a day to reflect on our history and to celebrate the ideals of Lux Libertas — light and liberty — that we still strive toward 227 years later through our teaching, research and public service.

    More than two decades ago, when Carolina celebrated its bicentennial, saplings from the storied Davie Poplar tree were presented to middle school students from all 100 North Carolina counties to spread a piece of the University across our state. This fall, we revisited some of those saplings and talked to a few of the people who planted them to see how Carolina has literally taken root throughout the Tar Heel State.

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  • The brass plate is on display.

    University Day celebrates the laying of the Old East cornerstone, but for decades, the centerpiece of that first ceremony 227 years ago — a brass plate commemorating the occasion — wasn’t even in Chapel Hill. It was 500 miles away as scrap metal waiting to be melted down in a foundry in Clarksville, Tennessee.

    Learn how it made its way back to Carolina
  • Old East sign

    We think that we know the story of Old East’s beginnings. But lesser-known stories are, perhaps, more important to understanding the University’s history. Learn more about an alternative story of Carolina’s foundation.

    Re-examine the story of Old East

Honoring our mission

  • A researcher examines seagrass.

    The University for North Carolina

    As a university built for the people, public service is at the core of Carolina’s mission. Today, UNC-Chapel Hill has a presence in every county of North Carolina.

  • A person works in a research lab.

    Responding to the pandemic

    Researchers at Carolina are working quickly to find practical and innovative solutions to the new challenges created by COVID-19. They’re also studying the various non-medical hurdles caused by COVID-19 to help our state respond to the crisis holistically and help all North Carolinians thrive.

  • A globe with a sunset behind it.

    A leading global university

    Even during a pandemic that has restricted travel, Carolina is leaving its mark around the world and preparing a new generation of global leaders. We're infusing a global mindset in all we do — from academics to research to service. Global opportunities fuel our students’ learning, our faculty’s research and our innovative spirit.

  • The Bell Tower.

    Opening the doors to higher education

    We are dedicated to higher education access and affordability. Thousands of our Tar Heels are the first in their families to attend college. We proudly call them "Carolina Firsts," and they are an integral part of our University, contributing to our vibrant campus community.

While University Day is an opportunity to celebrate all Carolina has achieved in the past 227 years, it is also a chance for us to look forward to what comes next. Carolina took a step foward on Sunday afternoon as Kevin M. Guskiewicz was officially installed as the University's 12th chancellor.

The ceremony marked a new chapter in Carolina's history.

A historic moment

Upon taking the oath of office, Guskiewicz shared his vision for Carolina's future as a student-focused institution dedicated to preparing generations of Tar Heels to change the world and address new challenges. Carolina will achieve that goal, he said, by embracing new ideas while staying true to our mission focused on research, education and service.

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We have a rising generation restless for change and a storied university committed to solving grand challenges. The question is whether we truly can be ‘student-focused’ and give them the tools, support and knowledge they need to change the status quo. Having been here for 25 years, I know we can.

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz

Kevin M. Guskiewicz speaks at the podium.

We are links in a long chain, and our duty is to preserve and improve this brilliant University for generations. … This University wasn’t built for easy things. It was built to answer the highest needs of North Carolina, to endure the hard times and hasten the good, to ensure that a new generation has the chance to rise.

Peter Hans, president of the UNC System

Meet the chancellor

  • Kevin Guskiewicz takes the oath of office with his hand on a Bible.

    Moving forward with boldness

    Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz took his oath of office Sunday afternoon at a physically distanced ceremony in Memorial Hall.

  • Kevin Guskiewicz in his office.

    In his own words

    As he prepared to be installed as Carolina’s 12th chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz discussed tradition, uncertainty and the importance of inclusive decision-making.

  • Get to know Kevin Guskiewicz

    On Sunday, Kevin Guskiewicz took the public oath that installed him as chancellor, the job he has been doing for nearly 20 months, first on an interim basis then as the permanent choice of the UNC System Board of Governors. Since he arrived here as a faculty member in 1995, he has progressed to department chair, center director, senior associate dean and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.