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The Daily Tar Heel

How the UNC brand has changed since 1790

Founded in 1789, the University witnesses its seal change as it moves forward. The different versions of the seal reflect the University’s forward march to adjust itself in various time period.

The original seal, first spotted in the University’s official documents in 1790, featured the face of Apollo in the center and an inner wreath with words “Sigil Universitat Carol Septent,” with rays of sun streaming.

A trustees’ committee was appointed to design the seal in 1790. Later, the face of Apollo, the god of eloquence, was added to the seal through the emblem of the rising sun, which represented the dawn of higher education in the state, according to a 1975 Alumni Review article.

Cecelia Moore, UNC historian, said the UNC-system Board of Governors’ current seal was a version of the University’s original seal.

The seal saw a few changes under the University’s presidents George Winston and Edwin Alderman in 1895 and 1897. In 1895, under Winston, the seal was redesigned and the Apollo head was turned to a profile of a person, with the rays of the sun diminishing. Lighted torches, which represented learning, were placed on both sides of the person’s head.

Two years later, Alderman made more changes. Alderman abandoned the person’s head, substituting it for a shield, and kept the two torches on each side. Latin words, “Lux Libertas,” were added on the shield.

The fourth time the seal was changed it was done by William Carmichael, the University’s then-controller in the 1940s. Carmichael simply changed the direction of the diagonal bar in the middle of the shield, according to UNC librarian Louis Wilson’s manuscript in 1956.

The seal has not undergone big changes since then. The seal is used by the University for academic purposes, such as on the transcript and in the graduation ceremony.

Protecting the brand

In the meantime, the University has taken steps to protect the use of trademark language and logos, as they represent the University’s values and traditions.

After the University won the national men’s basketball championship in 1982, the increasing demands for UNC brands pushed the University to take action to protect its logos and trademarks. The merchandising became a profitable business for the University to support scholarships and financial aid.

Derek Lochbaum, director of UNC Trademarks and Licensing, said the University’s merchandising started in October 1982, a month after the University won the basketball national championship.

Nicholas Graham, a University archivist, said UNC started its merchandising business following a national trend of big universities doing the same thing.

“A lot of other, you know, big schools had seen the demands for merchandise,” he said.

“For UNC in particular, in 1982, the spring and summer was, you know, just not long after UNC won the basketball national championship and had arguably the most recognizable basketball player in the country, Michael Jordan.”

Graham said the University’s popularity at that time and its rich alumni base put UNC brands in constant demand.

“The popularity of the University, with alumni all over the world, and also that increasing visibility of the University through its athletic programs made the merchandise in demand,” he said.

Moore, the UNC historian, said the University is keen to protect its trademarks because the University wants to promote its positive image.

“We are very diligent in protecting in that trademark, in part because we care about our image as a University, but also because that revenue goes towards scholarships, so we want to make sure, you know, we are collecting it.”

Lochbaum said the University wants its merchandising business to achieve three P’s: protection, promotion and profit.

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Lochbaum said all the revenue of the licensing office goes directly to the Office of Scholarships & Student Aid.

“First of all, 100 percent of all net revenue from the trademark licensing program directs toward student scholarships of the University,” he said.

Lochbaum said the revenue of merchandising was about $3.5 million for one year. Lochbaum said 75 percent of the revenue is used for need-based scholarships and 25 percent of the revenue is used for merit-based scholarships.

The biggest customers of UNC licensing include UNC Student Stores, Wal-Mart and Finish Line.

Lochbaum said the common bond between people who have connections with the University is what really supports the merchandising business.

“The one thing that we all have in common is that we are all Tar Heels, and we have love for this university.”