Renaissance Woman, Unplugged
In a time ofglobalfocus
Betty Ray McCain
McCain helped alumn
the forest through the
development (top), and
greeted loyal Tar Heels
ch as Foste
Introducing Betty Ray McCain ' 52 is not a task one accepts lighdy. For almost a quarter century, McCain, the
current chair of the GAA's Board of Directors, has been one
of the state's most dynamic political, civic and cultural
leaders. She's served as secretary of the N.C. Department of
Cultural Resources, as the first chairwoman of the state
Democratic Party and as a member of the UNC System
Board of Governors. Her career is perhaps best sununarized by
former Gov. James B. Hunt ' 64 (LLBJD), who once remarked
that McCain defines the term "Renaissance woman."
Over the past year, UNC alumni have been energized
by McCain's hands-on approach to leading the GAA -
not to mention entertained by her wit and wisdom. When
she steps down from her position in May, she'll leave a mark
for her commitment to hit the highway and take outreach
programs to alumni across the state, including southeastern
On Feb. 12 and 13, McCain used her wit and verve dur-
ing a dinner in Whiteville and a luncheon in Lumberton to
update alumni on her beloved alma mater and its plans for
expansion and to seek contin-
ued support ofissues affecting
McCain said she wanted to
connect with alumni on a per-
sonallevel, beyond asking them
to be a member ofthe GAA
and to support Carolina's inter-
"What we tried to do was
identify some areas that perhaps
had not been as active in recent
years where Betty would be a natural," said Douglas S.
Dibbert ' 70, GAA president.
A native of Faison, McCain now lives in Wilson and is
no stranger to the less-publicized regions of North Carolina.
McCain had good company on the two trips. Dibbert, a
Fayetteville native, and GAA Director of Enrichment
Programs Rick Davis ' 85, who hails from Chadbourn in
Columbus County, each lent their assistance to bring the
local events togedler. The GAA also invited local state leg-
islators to attend.
The programs had a decidedly down-home flavor. They
were held at local venues - a museum in a former bank
building and a local restaurant - and featured everything
from barbecue to McCain's irreverent humor. They also
were a smashing success and highlighted how McCain's
charisma and enthusiasm are like magnets for Tar Heels.
"We just had a really good time and a really good
turnout," McCain said. "Carolina folks are wonderful and
very civic-minded and very active citizens. They're very
interested in North Carolina and what happens to all of
us. You always see folks who were classmates and friends."
The Whiteville gathering, held at the new N.C. Museum
of Forestry in Columbus County, drew about 75 people
from Columbus, Bladen and Brunswick counties. The
museum opened in 2000 in a former bank building and
operates as a satellite of the N.C. Museum of Natural
Sciences in Raleigh.
Holding the event in a grassroots museum seemed like a
no-brainer: a place of enrichment for an organization built
on enriching alumni lives. It also was an opportunity to
introduce citizens to a new gem in the cultural lives of North
Carolinians."Undoubtedly, there were those who were in
the forestry museum for the first time," Dibbert said.
The Whiteville event also was a family affair, of sorts.
Jim High ' 59, whose fanlily owns the local paper,
his son, Les ' 84, who is managing editor of the
paper and president of the Whiteville Chamber of
Commerce; and Les' wife, Becky High ' 84, the Columbus
County Carolina Club leader, each helped organize the
event. It was a roll-up-your-sleeves effort, with volunteers
coming early to set up and staying late to clean up, after
the final refrains of the Carolina fight song were sung and
the last story told.
"Betty did a grand job; she knows all the stories," says
Jim High. During the event, High remarked how poignant
it was to have McCain at the new museum, given she was
so instrumental in making it a reality. Although the museum
falls under the N.C. Department of Environment and
Natural Resources, McCain supported it while secretary of
the N. C. Department of Cultural Resources.
"Betty thought the museum was a grand idea and was
really the first public official that really put her stamp of
approval on it," High said. "[ was very pleased that she
would come back and close the circle."
"I love all of North Carolina;just turn me loose and
I'm happy," Mc Cain said of the gathering, where she spoke
to the left of what was once a teller window in the First
Citizens Bank. "It was fun to go down there because I
hadn't seen the new forestry museum, and it was so won-
derful to see it for the first time."
The following morning, McCain made the nearly hour-
long trip to Lumberton for a lunch at John's Restaurant
that drew 40 people, including alumni from Robeson, Hoke
and Scodand counties. Attendees included N.C. House Rep.
Donald A. Bonner, a Democrat who represents the 87th
in this issue
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