On Friday morning, UNC alumni, ROTC students and guests filled the Carolina Union Great Hall to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Naval Armory.
Hosted by UNC’s Naval ROTC Alumni Association, the event included speeches from Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-N.C. 4th), Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Walter Gaskin, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Jim White, NROTC alumni and more.
According to campus plans released in 2019, the University has been planning to tear down the Naval Armory in order to create a building for the Institute for Convergent Science. However, UNC NROTC alumni have been working to save the armory and maintain its status as a home base for ROTC programs.
NROTC student Erin Storch said that the community space the Naval Armory provides is its most important role.
“I feel like that above everything else that goes on in it, it's our little corner of the campus,” she said.
After opening with a performance by a student brass band, Friday’s celebration began with a presentation on the history of the military on UNC’s campus and the impact of the Naval Armory given by Sandy Henkel, Naval Armory 80th Anniversary coordinator.
Henke said that the UNC NROTC program was founded in 1940 in order to increase the school’s enrollment in response to World War II. UNC also created a Navy Pre-Flight School in the 1940s and built the Naval Armory in 1943 in order to provide adequate space for ROTC activities.
“Today we celebrate the naval armory and the thousands of leaders who have been equipped over the past 80 years by spending time in this building,” Henkel said. “This is where your and their foundation for service was formed. This building is where you and your predecessors were trained and mentored not just for military service, but for life.”
Secretary Gaskin said it is important to him to preserve the history of locations like the armory.