Mixture of Melllories for
Black alumni representing decades
change share stories
Bently Renwick ' 66 held back tears as he spoke, pride rushing forth. Renwick, a former associate dean in the College of
Arts and Sciences, returned to UNC in 1969
as a student recruiter, when fewer than 70
black students attended the school. Within
four years, UNC's black student population had
increased to more than SOO.As part of his
recruiting process, Renwick developed UNC's
Minority Academic Advancement
"I rededicated my life to helping
those students," Renwick said, unable to
suppress his emotion. "These were the
kinds of things I felt were dear to me."
Thanks to the groundwork ofindi-
viduals such as Renwick, the number of
black students attending UNC has con-
tinued to increase every year. According
to a new survey conducted by
UNC topped the nation's elite universi-
ties for the second consecutive year
with the highest percentage ofblack
freshmen enrolled this fall. The annual
sts for BAR
study noted that black students comprise more
than 12 percent of Carolina's first-year class.
Speaking about memories and traditions
that have enriched the black experience at
UNC, a panel of six black alumni addressed
about 50 people who gathered in the George
Watts Hill Alumni Center on Nov. 10 for
"Celebrating 20Years: ' The African-American
Experience,' " part of the Black Alumni
Reunion's 20th anniversary weekend. Closing
remarks were given by Chancellor James
Moeser, who expressed his strong commit-
ment to diversity at UNC.
The enrichment panel was moderated by
Rosalind Fuse-Hall 'SO and included Eloise
Crowder Beech, wife ofUNC's first black
graduate, Harvey Elliot Beech ' 52 (LLB);
Renwick; Herbert Davis ' 73 (MS), associate
director of undergraduate admissions;Angela
Bryant ' 73, a member ofthe UNC System
Board of Governors;Johnnie Southerland 'S1;
and Reyna Walters ' 99, the first black woman
at UNC to serve as student body president.
The panelists, three of whom - Davis,
Bryant and Southerland- have multiple
UNC degrees, spoke about their experiences
at Carolina through the years and how they
impacted the black community during their
respective times in Chapel Hill.
Davis has been at the heart of the change to
boost the numbers of black students on campus,
continuing the work that Renwick began.
Working in the admissions office, he has seen
- Johnnie Southerland ' 81
the number ofapplications increase gradually,
up to 2, 100 last year. As a UNC student in the
early '70s, "ifyou saw a black face, you would
stop them," said Davis. "That was quite differ-
ent than it is now."
Like Renwick, Davis said that recruitment
programs, such as today's Project Uplift, have
attracted a diverse group of excellent students
"Students that have come here have been
extremely talented students that have offered a
lot to The University of North Carolina," he
said. "UNC has a commitment to diversity-
a COl Tunitment to have a lot of people that
come from a lot of different backgrounds."
who had talent,
but it did
Bryant, who attended Carolina at the same
time as Davis, told the group how her college
experience had started on a sour note when
the white student who was to be her freshman
roommate relented to parental pressure and
declined to room with her. When she arrived
at school, Bryant learned she had a new room-
mate, who also was black.
While Bryant succeeded in the class-
room-she was the only black student in the
Honors Program at the time-it was harder
for her in other arenas at such a predomi-
nantly white school. Part ofher response was
to become politically active and to become
involved in the fight for civil rights.
"It was the political life that affected me
and, in some respects, what I got my degree
in," said Bryant, a self-described activist and
feminist. "What I learned was social change.
We were here during a time of exciting
From Bryant's and other black students'
activism in the early '70s grew the Black
Walters, the panel's youngest member,
explained how she becanle involved with stu-
dent government in her sophomore year only
to discover that women never seemed to rise
above the office ofvice president. "I was
always curious why there were these wonder-
ful women who didn't want to be president,"
Walters said. "It motivated me, more than any-
thing, to get involved."
That she did, becoming the first black
female student body president in UNC's his-
tory."It was a life-changing experience,"
Walters said. "It was one ofmy best experi-
ences, but also discouraging." On one occa-
sion, in the chancellor's box during a football
game at Kenan Stadium, Walters said she was
mistaken for an employee simply because she
But hearing other members of the panel
speak, she said, allowed her to realize how far
black students have come at UNC. "Listening
to everyone before me, it puts things in per-
spective," she said. "Things have changed so
much, but there are still some things we're
working on. It's still a pretty close-knit fanilly."
in this issue
article text for page
< previous story
next story >
Share this page with a friend
Save to “My Stuff”
Subscribe to this magazine