Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019 at Memorial Hall at 11 a.m.
History of University Day

University Day is an occasion to remember the University’s past and celebrate its future. The date, Oct. 12, marks the laying of the cornerstone of Old East, the institution’s first building and the oldest state university building in the nation. The Carolina community first celebrated University Day in 1877, after Governor Zebulon B. Vance, as chair of the Board of Trustees, ordered that the day “be observed with appropriate ceremonies under the direction of the faculty.”

Subsequent celebrations have featured speeches from distinguished members of the faculty and honored visitors. President John F. Kennedy spoke in 1961, as did Bill Clinton in 1993. North Carolina governors have made University Day a traditional stop during their first term of office – including Luther Hodges, Jim Hunt, Terry Sanford, Jim Martin, Mike Easley, Bev Perdue, Pat McCrory and Roy Cooper.

Since 1971, the faculty has presented the Distinguished Alumna and Alumnus Awards on University Day to recognize those Tar Heels who have made outstanding contributions to humanity.

Beginning in 1957 with William B. Aycock, University Day became the traditional inauguration day for new chancellors: Paul F. Sharp in 1964, J. Carlyle Sitterson in 1965, N. Ferebee Taylor in 1972, Christopher C. Fordham III in 1980, Paul Hardin in 1988, Michael Hooker in 1995, James Moeser in 2000, Holden Thorp in 2008 and Carol Folt in 2013.

Public higher education began in Chapel Hill in 1793, and for more than two hundred years Carolina has symbolized the importance of education in a democratic nation. It remains a place defined by those values, as noted by Governor Terry Sanford in 1987, of “freedom and liberty and tolerance, the search for truth, the defense of dignity, courage to arrive freely at convictions, and the personal courage to stand for those hopes and truths.”

Processional information.

As faculty and staff process into Memorial Hall, each school will be identified with a gonfalon style banner, and faculty and staff will process together behind their respective banner. The procession will be organized by the date of the establishment of the school. Staff not associated with a particular school should process with the Administration and Staff banner. It is our goal that each banner will be proudly displayed with a prominent following. The processional line up begins at 10:30 a.m. near the Old Well. Look for your banner! In case of rain, faculty and staff should gather in Anne Queen Lounge.

Faculty who are participating are encouraged to wear their academic regalia, but it is not required.

Recipients of the 2018 Distinguished Alumna/Alumnus Awards
Jim Delany

Jim Delany

James E. Delany

After three decades as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, James Delany is a widely respected leader in the world of college sports. He oversees a conference that has 14 member institutions and administers more than $200 million in direct financial aid to some 9,800 student athletes.


In 2014 Delany received the Torch of Liberty Award from the Anti-Defamation League in recognition of the conference’s commitment to diversity, equality and opportunity. In 2016 he was honored with the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

While a student at Carolina, Delany played varsity basketball, serving as tri-captain and twice participating in the NCAA Final Four. After graduation, he remained engaged with his alma mater through work with the School of Law, Kenan-Flagler Business School and Hussman School of Journalism and Media. He has also served the University as a member of the General Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, most recently as its chair. In 2012 he received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Law.


Nicole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones (Photo by James Estrin/ The New York Times)

Nikole S. Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones is an award-winning investigative reporter covering segregation and racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine. A passionate advocate for equality and truth telling, Hannah-Jones began her career as a reporter for The News & Observer, where she covered issues of race, class, school segregation and equity. In 2017 she received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for her work on educational inequality. She has also won a Peabody Award, Polk Award, National Magazine Award and the John Chancellor Award, which is presented annually by the Columbia Journalism School to a reporter with courage and integrity for cumulative professional accomplishments.

In 2016 Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a training and mentorship organization geared toward increasing the numbers of investigative reporters of color. Earlier this year the society announced its affiliation with UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, where Hannah-Jones was a Park Fellow.

Hannah-Jones holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame.



Jill McCorkle

Jill McCorkle

Jill C. McCorkle

Jill McCorkle has the distinction of having published her first two novels on the same day in 1984, and soon after she was described in the The New York Times Book Reviewas a “born novelist.” Since then she has published four novels and four collections of short stories; five of her works have been named New York Timesnotable books. Several of her stories have appeared in Best American Short Storiesand New Stories from the South.

McCorkle has taught at UNC-Chapel Hill, Harvard, Tufts and Brandeis. She currently teaches creative writing at North Carolina State University and the Bennington College Writing Seminars, and she is also a frequent instructor at the Sewanee Summer Writers Program. McCorkle has been recognized with the New England Book Award, John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, North Carolina Award for Literature and Thomas Wolfe Prize. She was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2018 and has been described as “a North Carolina treasure.”

McCorkle holds a Master of Arts in writing from Hollins University.


Robert Newman

Robert Newman

Robert D. Newman

Robert Newman is president and director of the National Humanities Center, a leading independent institute for advanced study in the humanities. He was previously dean of humanities and professor of English at the University of Utah, where he established a new humanities building and led the creation of the Taft-Nicholson Center for Environmental Humanities. He has received numerous awards for his scholarship, teaching and institutional leadership.


Newman has written six books and many articles on twentieth-century literature, culture and narrative theory. He has long been general editor of the “Cultural Frames, Framing Culture” series published by University of Virginia Press.

Since assuming leadership of the National Humanities Center in 2015, Newman has broadened its scholarly mission and enhanced public engagement. One nominator stated that, “In a moment when STEM holds sway, Robert Newman’s plea for the importance of the humanities is one of the most powerful in the United States today.”

Newman holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with honors from Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Arts in literature and aesthetics from Goddard College.

Recipient of the 2018 Edward Kidder Graham Award
Giselle Corbie-Smith

Giselle Corbie-Smith

Giselle Corbie-Smith

A nationally recognized expert on the inclusion of disparity populations in research, Giselle Corbie-Smith is the founder and director of the UNC Center for Health Equity Research, which works to improve health in North Carolina through a shared commitment to innovation, collaboration and equity. She is an extraordinary scholar with an impressive record of publications, grants and invited talks. She recently served as president of the Society of General Internal Medicine and was honored with its Herbert W. Nickens Award for her outstanding contributions to health-care equity. In 2018 she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

Corbie-Smith has shown a deep commitment to working in North Carolina by bringing research to communities, involving community members as partners in research, and improving health of minority populations and underserved areas. She was part of the  first class of Carolina Center for Public Service Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars. As a nominator remarked, her work “represents what is best about community-engaged scholarship and service at UNC.” It epitomizes President Edward Kidder Graham’s call to make the campus coextensive with the boundaries of the state.”