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University Day

12 October 2010

On October 12, 1793, William Richardson Davie presided at a ceremony which laid a cornerstone on a parcel of land near an abandoned Anglican chapel of rest outside of Pittsboro, North Carolina. That chapel was called “New Hope Chapel” and it sat on a hill, so the place was named “New Hope Chapel Hill”. By laying that cornerstone of the building which is now Old East, the University of North Carolina became the first public university in the young nation.

Today is University Day, the celebration of the founding of UNC, but also of public higher education, 217 years ago. Being 600 miles away from Chapel Hill for the first time in 5 years would lead you suspect that my connection with the place would be less than when I was there. However, that’s apparently not how this works. Below are a few quotes about the abiding connection to the magical place that is Chapel Hill.

What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the Well or the bell or the stone walls. Or the crisp October nights or the memory of dogwoods blooming. Our loyalty is not only to William Richardson Davie, though we are proud of what he did 200 years ago today. Nor even to Dean Smith, though we are proud of what he did last March. No, our love for this place is based on the fact that it is, as it was meant to be, the University of the people.
–Charles Kuralt

So far from forgetting this place, I think my picture of it grows dearer every year, it was as close to magic as I’ve ever been.
–Thomas Wolfe

Nobody ever gets over being a Tar Heel.
— Bill Currie

I am blessed to have gone to school here for four years. You all are blessed for the same reason. And you won’t realize the depth of it until later on in life, and that’s natural. All of us who have gone to school here, we know that there is something very special about this place — the tradition, the campus, the social life, the academic life. That’s why those kids eight miles down Highway 15-501 love to playa hate on us, don’t they? Jealousy is an ugly emotion, isn’t it?
— Stuart Scott

But sometime when the springtime comes and the sifting moonlight falls, they’ll think again of this night here and of these old brown walls, of white Old Well and of Old South. With Bell’s deep booming tone, they’ll think again of Chapel Hill, and — thinking — come back home.
–Thomas Wolfe

This University has torn me down and rebuilt me as a stronger, better version of myself. It has challenged and nurtured me. In that way, I too have become a Tar Heel born and bred. And no matter whether I ever set foot on this campus after commencement May 9, I will remain a Tar Heel. You see, being a Tar Heel isn’t just about having a physical connection to this place or even having an active role in the University community. Ultimately, being a Tar Heel is about having the wisdom to know which battles — big and small — need to be fought to better society. It’s about having the courage to initiate those battles. And it’s about having the conviction and dedication to see the fight to the end, even when everyone around you is retreating. Given that, I sincerely hope I’ll be a true Tar Heel to my death.
–Elyse Ashburn

And it seems like it goes on like this forever
You must forgive me
If I’m up and gone to Carolina in my mind
–James Taylor

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