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UNC women's basketball honors program alumna Robyn Hadley in annual Black History Month Tribute

Robyn Hadley, pictured holding the ball, honored during the UNC women's basketball game against Pitt in Carmichael Arena on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Courtesy of Kyran Taylor/UNC Athletics.

As Robyn Hadley walked to center court in Carmichael Arena, all she could do was reflect.

The UNC women’s basketball alumna thought about her two seasons at North Carolina, how proud she felt to once wear the Carolina Blue jersey with 23 on the back and the number of African Americans who paved the way for her.

“So to be part of a foundation of excellence, which has just continued, has been wonderful," she said.

On Thursday night during the UNC women’s basketball game against Pittsburgh, the women's basketball team and UNC Black Caucus celebrated three honorees as part of the annual Black History Month Tribute. Hadley, along with Lachonya Thompson, UNC associate provost and Danita Mason-Hogans, local historian and writer, took center court in acknowledgment of their work to create a better path for future students at North Carolina. Each of the honorees helped contribute to the success Hadley said she desperately wants for younger generations. 

For head coach Courtney Banghart, the annual tribute is always memorable.

“Any chance we get to celebrate progress and to urge awareness and to show compassion — it’s a win,” Banghart said

In coordination with the tribute, players replaced their typical pre-game shooting shirts with black T-Shirts with “Black History Month” in white bold letters on the back. A quote from former President Barack Obama adorned the front in a similar white font, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Over the course of their respective careers, each of Thursday night's honorees have contributed to the change referenced on the shooting shirts.

Thompson, another UNC alumna, serves as the University's associate provost for faculty affairs. In that position, she ensures UNC staff can thrive and has created different programs that help with their development.

She is most proud of her work with “ELEVATE” — a suite of support programs that builds community amongst the staff. Not only does the program aim to further the careers of faculty, but it also works to develop and maintain diversity at UNC. 

“[I want] to become a part of that fabric of the academic community,” Thompson said.

After Thompson and the other honorees were celebrated during the first half, Hadley returned to the center of the court once again later in the game. As a former member of the basketball team, the alumna received her own celebration. 

Without her undergraduate experience, Hadley admits her career path would have been extremely different. As a Morehead-Cain Scholar and basketball walk-on, Hadley learned to balance her practice schedule with rigorous classes all while facing an ever-present fear of failure. As a small town girl with a country twang, Hadley wanted to prove herself while in Chapel Hill — the biggest town she had ever lived in at that time.

Now, Hadley has seen the peak of higher education. After graduating from UNC in 1985, the former Tar Heel went on to study political science as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. Up until June, Hadley served as the University of Virginia's vice president and the chief student affairs officer. 

On Thursday, Hadley and the other honorees received the opportunity to share their success in celebration of the Black History Month tribute in front of players forming their own stories and entering their own careers. 

And in that moment, all Hadley could do was reflect

“It’s just wonderful now to see where the women’s program is and where the University is and how much more diverse it is.”

Caroline Wills contributed reporting to this story.


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