She gave $5 million to Wilson Library to go toward updating the grand reading room and maintaining inventory.
“I was going to leave it under my will and I thought, ‘Well, why not do it in my lifetime?’” Fearrington said.
Associate Provost and University Librarian Sarah Michalak said they were grateful to be receiving the money.
“I was thrilled and the library staff were also very excited. She gave us such a huge compliment in addition to such a big gift,” Michalak said. “It feels so good when somebody trusts you enough and trusts your institution to know that she is making a good investment.”
Fearrington is specifically dedicating $1 million of her donation to be used to update the grand reading room in Wilson Library — to be renamed to the Fearrington Reading Room in her honor. The grand reading room is a space she remembers studying in as a UNC student.
“In Chapel Hill, I had used that reading room and I loved it,” Fearrington said. “It’s a magnificent room and somebody said it was the most beautiful room in North Carolina, and I think it may be.”
Fearrington graduated from UNC with a degree in mathematics.
She then earned a certificate from the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business because the UNC business school did not allow women to attend.
Her previous gifts include establishing the Joseph Peyton Fearrington and James Cornelius Pass Fearrington Fund at the Health Sciences Library. The names honor her grandfather and her father.
Michalak said the reading room will appear the same physically after the update, but there will be all new infrastructure.
“The first thing that the planners will do is go through and update the electrical system and all the outlets and everything, and probably put in a good sound system so that there can continue to be lectures and even some concerts there,” Michalak said.
Other renovations might include upgrading the book shelves to act as exhibit cases for different book themes. Michalak said the end goal is to make the reading room as perfect as possible.
The remaining $4 million will create the Fearrington Special Collections Library Fund for the library to use as needed.
Michalak said the fund will be used to acquire items the library may feature in the future, such as special collections and journals.
“(The funds) are a vital importance because students’ and researchers’ needs continually change and there could be students who come to the library and use an array of correspondence ... it’s so important that the library has the funding to support students and researchers as they examine a given subject,” Michalak said.
Changes to Wilson Library will begin after Fearrington officially donates the money to the library after the New Year.