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Sunday January 29th

Dibbert announces retirement, reflects on 40 years leading the GAA

<p>The George Watts Hill Alumni Center is home to the General Alumni Association on UNC's campus on Tuesday, Oct. 25.</p>
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The George Watts Hill Alumni Center is home to the General Alumni Association on UNC's campus on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Doug Dibbert sits in his office in the George Watts Hill Alumni Center, a building that opened its doors under his leadership in 1993. In front of walls lined with UNC memorabilia and family photos, he recounts his service of more than 14,000 days at the helm of the General Alumni Association.  

“All alumni are convinced that they attended Carolina at the most perfect time. And all of us are right,” Dibbert said. 

Dibbert, who has been president of the GAA since 1982, announced his retirement in a Board of Directors meeting earlier this month. 

His time at the GAA resulted in the opening of the Alumni Center and the now-bimonthly publication of the Carolina Alumni Review magazine. 

The Alumni Center, a 63,000-square-foot building on Stadium Drive, is located near Kenan Stadium and regularly hosts tailgates, reunions and weddings. 

Regina Oliver, a former editor of the Carolina Alumni Review, worked directly with Dibbert during her time with the GAA. 

She said that as president of the association, Dibbert also took on the title of publisher of the Carolina Alumni Review. 

“He was very engaged in the magazine and had been for his whole career,” Oliver said.

She said trust is vital in the relationship between publisher and editor, and she valued that trust with Dibbert. 

“All those years he had expressed and demonstrated competence in our team in the people who put together the magazine,” Oliver said. 

For Oliver, Dibbert was a constant figure of support, especially when the magazine covered sensitive topics, including the winter 2013 issue of the magazine, which covered the University’s handling of sexual assault reports and Title IX compliance. 

“He was supportive of that kind of effort,” Oliver said. “He knew that it mattered.”

Dibbert also said that, although it is not often recognized, the GAA supports many student programs on campus, including groups like the Clef Hangers and the senior marshals. 

Dibbert spoke about the eclectic experiences he had as GAA president.

One memory that he recounts was in 2009 when the men’s basketball team visited the White House. Dibbert was in Washington, D.C. for a separate meeting and a friend invited him to accompany the White House visit. 

Dibbert said that he also got to present the Distinguished Alumnus Award to Michael Jordan and was a witness to other important moments in Jordan’s career.

“I was in that small room in Fetzer when Michael Jordan announced he was going pro,” he said. 

Along with athletes, he also was given opportunities to talk with celebrity alumni. 

Andy Griffith, an American actor who graduated from UNC in 1949, reached out to Dibbert about his name. According to Dibbert, Griffith had sometimes gone by “Andrew" during his time at the University, but wanted no trace of that on campus. 

“He wanted to make sure that I interceded on his behalf to make sure it was always ‘Andy’ around here,” Dibbert said. 

Wade Smith, former legal counsel for the GAA, worked alongside Dibbert for several years. Smith said he respects and admires Dibbert, both as a businessman and a friend. 

“I think he is absolutely out of sight,” Smith said. “I admire him deeply and the University is so lucky that he has headed up the Alumni Association for this considerable period of time.” 

Oliver said Dibbert’s influence has built the GAA into a steady, healthy program.  

Smith echoed that sentiment and said he is glad Dibbert is taking this time to retire. 

“I'm glad for him. He's been there for a long, long time,” Smith said. 

Dibbert said that he intentionally did not set an estimated date that his retirement will go into effect, a decision intended to allow the committee to conduct a thorough, complete search. 

He added that he will be very busy sorting through years of files while the search committee looks for his replacement as president. 

He said that the GAA has been home for him, and while he is leaving the position, he and his wife do not plan to leave Chapel Hill. 

“We're not moving, we're not going anywhere,” Dibbert said. “We'll be around.”

@natvarma

university@dailytarheel.com

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