When Carolina Dining Services renamed Rams Head Dining Hall to “Chase Dining Hall” in 2017, UNC students posted memes on Twitter and Facebook expressing their distaste for the change.
But nearly two years later, students got a chance to understand why the change was made.
During a lecture held at Wilson Library, North Carolina author Howard E. Covington Jr. explained why former UNC President Harry Woodburn Chase has a building named after him in the first place.
Covington spoke at the launch event for his recent book “Fire and Stone: The Making of the University of North Carolina Under Presidents Edward Kidder Graham and Harry Woodburn Chase.” The book is the second volume in the Coates University Leadership Series, which publishes works on former UNC presidents and chancellors. The series is funded by the Albert and Gladys Coates Endowment Fund for the North Carolina Collection.
“We see it as a way to help people understand the really fascinating history of the University and how the skills, the personalities, the leadership styles of the chancellors influenced the directions of the University,” said Robert Anthony Jr., curator of the North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library.
At the event, Covington talked about how Graham and Chase’s careers as University presidents were deeply connected.
Graham, a Charlotte native and UNC graduate, was elected as UNC president by the Board of Trustees in 1914 following a sabbatical-turned-resignation by the president at the time, Francis Preston Venable.
“(Graham) was approachable, engaged and one that wanted to be a part of the world,” said Covington.
During his time as president, Graham focused on expanding the services of the University throughout the state. By inviting organizations like the Farmers Union and small businessmen to campus, Graham chipped away at the University's reputation as an elitist institution, Covington said.
The former president also organized community service events and sparked conversation surrounding community issues throughout North Carolina.
“(Under Graham), teachers had access to volumes that were in Wilson Library,” Covington said. “They had access to teachers, faculty members from the campus of the University who would go into communities and speak about the work that they were engaged in, the courses they were teaching.”
In 1918, Graham died during the influenza pandemic and Chase, a Massachusetts native and a UNC psychology professor at the time, rose to replace him.
“Chase was a scholar, and is really one of the first to be in charge of this institution in many a year,” said Covington. “He expanded the curriculum in journalism, dramatics and music. (He) saw the hiring of women, first women faculty members and the first women’s dorm. He created the office of the dean of women.”
Chase also oversaw the construction of 21 new campus buildings and helped grow the annual support for UNC from $270,097 to $1,324,974 between 1918 and 1929. In addition to establishing journalism, dramatic art, music, psychology and sociology departments, Chase also established business administration, public welfare and library science schools.
“He turned this place into a university,” Covington said. “He found a way to make sure that qualified educators and scholars were in the places where they belong.”
The “Fire and Stone” event was free and open to the public.
“I decided to come because Wilson Library has always been one of my favorite places on campus,” first-year Alex Longo said. “I was interested in learning more about its origins and about the people who originally came up with the idea to build such a beautiful space for students.”
Director of Library Communications Judy Panitch said she was glad the University Library System was able to celebrate the newest volume in the Coates series.
“I think it’s important (to) look at the history of the University and how it’s evolved over time and become the university we know today,” Panitch said.
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