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The Daily Tar Heel

How UNC's campus and culture have changed since your parents went here

the Cáceres family

Alex Cáceres (second from right) is a first-year at UNC continuing a Tar Heel tradition — his father, Pablo (right) graduated in 1989.

Pepper’s Pizza on Franklin Street, the start of Mack Brown’s coaching career at UNC, Michael Jordan and camping out for basketball tickets are all part of the good old days at UNC for alumni. 

The nostalgia that’s associated with the town of Chapel Hill and the University’s campus is one of the first feelings to come up when some alumni recall their time at UNC. 

With Carolina Family Weekend taking place Friday, Sept. 20 to Sunday, Sept. 22, many alumni will get to re-live the glory days at UNC, this time with their own children as students. 


Pablo Cáceres, who graduated in 1989, will be taking part in his first Family Weekend as a parent to first-year son Alex Cáceres. 

“It’s not so much that I want him to carry on a tradition, as it is, I think the school is the right fit for him," Caceres said. "He got on the Tar Heel Voices, so he’s going to be singing at the barbecue, so I’m going to see him. It’s just going to be amazing to go back on Family Weekend."

Caceres and his wife both attended the University and were excited when their son, Alex, felt the magic — a father and son trip to the Smith Center solidified Alex’s love for Carolina when he was 12.

“I took him to the Dean Dome, even though we got clobbered by Duke that year," Caceres said. "I mean it was the ugliest game I had ever seen at the Dean Dome. He caught the fever when they started showing the video of everyone saying ‘Hi, I am Joe Wolf, I’m a Tar Heel’ and then it was Dean Smith, and then it went to Michael Jordan, so I think from that point on he was always interested in Carolina.” 

Caceres has fond memories of UNC, especially Franklin Street and Four Corners. Still, he remembers controversy during his time on campus. 

“I was there when Kenny Smith was playing basketball and I was there in the middle of the 1980s when the Soviet Union and U.S. were at it in the Cold War," Caceres said. "It was a much different time, we had different controversy back then." 

Nowadays, the controversy of Silent Sam remains fresh on campus. Denise Hull, a 1992 graduate, recalls that Silent Sam was an issue during her time at UNC, too. 

Campus Culture 

Melissa Beck, another 1992 graduate, said she believes the fundamental values of UNC still stand strong. 

“I feel like the culture is the same honestly,” she said. “I think the people that tend to come here hold the values of the University, the whole idea of the University representing the people of North Carolina. It’s a state University, its diverse, it’s supposed to be reflective of our community."

Beck and her husband, also a graduate of the class of 1992, loved Chapel Hill so much they decided to raise their family in the area. Now, their daughter, Sarah Beck, is a member of the class of 2023. 

“For us, it was like a dream come true," Beck said. "For us as parents it’s always been our dream and I’ve always hoped that it was my daughter’s dream, too."

The General Alumni Association will honor families like the Becks this weekend at a legacy pinning ceremony. Parents will bestow their child with a pin, symbolizing the continuing tradition of being a Tar Heel. 

Hull is also happy to be returning to UNC this weekend and plans on attending the football game against Appalachian State University with her family and daughter, Kristen Hull, a junior. 

“I always enjoy coming back to Chapel Hill — you always feel like you’re coming home,” Hull said. “It’s true what they say, as a student there’s just something magical about Chapel Hill and it never leaves you.”

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