The new names of the scholarships and grants, which will be effective in the 2017-18 school year, recognize 21 people who changed UNC.
“These people honor our University with their contributions, and it gives us a chance to use by example and teach by example about these people, what these brave people did, how they paved the way for others and set examples that continue to this day to inspire us,” Folt said. “We really believe that these scholarships bearing their names will motivate other deserving students each year to succeed in their own personal journeys at Carolina.”
The 21 honorees include Sallie Walker Stockard, the first woman to graduate from UNC; Johnston Blakeley, the first graduate to die in action in the U.S. Armed Forces; Henry Owl, the first American Indian student admitted to the University; and the first three black undergraduates at the University, John Brandon, Ralph Frasier and LeRoy Frasier Jr., all of whom graduated from other colleges.
“These newly named grants and fellowships are just a starting point for us,” Folt said. “We pledge to continue finding ways to more accurately share the history of Carolina and to accelerate all of our efforts on inclusion and diversity.”
In the keynote speech, Farmer said the idea UNC came from — the ideal of higher education — was a great one.
“From the beginning, Carolina was a bold and a brilliant idea — the notion that higher education was a public good, that it fostered the happiness of a rising generation, not just the perfection of individual students, that it belonged to the many rather than the few,” he said.
Farmer acknowledged the cloud of exclusivity on the basis of racism and sexism that surrounded the University during its early years.
“But if we’re going to be honest, we have to acknowledge that ours was an idea imperfectly realized,” he said. “As good as was the place where we started, as noble and as true, we’d be nowhere now if we hadn’t kept moving.”
Farmer said while he was grateful to be given the opportunity, he thought there were better people to deliver the University Day speech.
“When I was asked to do it, I thought someone had made a mistake, and that’s the truth,” Farmer said. “I was on vacation, and someone called me on the telephone. I said, ‘I really appreciate this, but I think you have the wrong number.’”
Though he graduated from Duke University, Farmer said UNC has become a home for him since he arrived in 2004.
“Over time, I think people tried so hard to make me feel welcome, and people tried very hard to help me understand what the University’s about and what it’s trying to do, and I just feel a lot of gratitude for the place and the people here, so I’m glad to help out with University Day,” he said.
At the ceremony, Provost Jim Dean and Vin Steponaitis, secretary of the faculty, presented the distinguished alumna and alumnus awards to Karen Bruton, Florence Fearrington, Rosalind Fuse-Hall, Sanford “Sandy” Shugart and Paula Brown Stafford.
The Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award was presented to two recipients — Mimi Chapman, a professor in the School of Social Work, and Eugenia Eng, a professor of health behavior in the Gillings School of Global Public Health.
First-year Student Congress member Tarik Woods said it was great to see how big of an influence alumni can have.
“It’s really inspiring not only to finish the four years and become one of those influential alumni, but also just seeing what they can do for us and how we support each other,” he said.
Margaret Spellings, UNC-system president, made her first University Day appearance.
“Walking across this beautiful campus this morning and marching in the processional, I can appreciate what Governor Ralph Lane meant more than four centuries ago when, in the first letter delivered to England from the New World, he described North Carolina as the goodliest earth under the coat of heaven,” she said.