Most of the people for whom Carolina
buildings are named are considered
public servants. If you broke down the
names into three categories — public servants, teachers and donors — you’d have
roughly 50 in each of the first two and 40
in the last.
William Richardson Davie, Louis Round Wilson (class of 1899), J.G. deRoulhac Hamilton
Astudent with a phone to his
head was beating the bricks
up through the center of the
quad, trying to locate a
friend. He repeated what he
heard: “Hanes and Saunders?” Then, “Got
it. I see you.”
His contact was a stone’s throw away, in
the middle of Polk Place, close to the flag
pole. But he didn’t say “Polk Place” or “flag
pole.” He used the proper names that came
most quickly to mind, names he could read
over doors to his east and west.
To the ever-wired, the building nameplates are waypoints in a campus Global
Positioning System, the same as streets
would be in the car, but much more specific. If you’re absent from Chapel Hill, the
mention of “Lenoir,” “Dey” or “Morrison”
has the same instantly orienting effect. It
might be the pleasure of a pickup game in
Woollen or the dread of econ in Gardner,
but you know where you were.
Do you know who they were? The
people who were important enough, rich
enough and in some cases just lucky
enough to have their names bolted forever
(theoretically) to doorways and printed in
Did you ever ask: Who, exactly, was J.G.
Are Saunders (Ku Klux Klan leader),
Daniels (white supremacist publisher) and
Spencer (racist sympathizer) still welcome?
And how do the namings reflect on the
named? Is it the sad fate of Harry Woodburn Chase, considered by many historians
to be the father of the modern University,
to be forever associated with the mediocre
food served for 30-odd years in the old
South Campus cafeteria?
Are you OK with a laboratory being
named for a basketball coach? An N.C.
State basketball coach?
Into this nest of nomenclature, with the
precision of an overnight package, comes
FedEx. The FedEx Global Education Center, a striking architectural departure on the
campus’s western edge, the headquarters for
programs considered lifeblood to UNC’s
competitive desires, opened this spring.
FedEx founder and CEO Frederick W.
Smith has two children with Carolina
degrees and a third enrolled. But the gift
was from the company, not Smith personally.
Among the names of men, and a modest number of women, gracing small nameplates on offices, labs and lounges across the
campus, are many dozens of corporate
names. The business school and the journalism school, for instance, are teeming
with them. But, with one exception that is
of a different circumstance, FedEx is the
first corporate-named building.
Does what’s in a name suddenly matter
How Many Can You Name?
Most of the University’s 26 CEOs have a
building bearing their names. Those
without are early, short-tenured presiding
professors David Ker, Charles Wilson
Harris and James S. Gillaspie; the much-maligned Solomon Pool of the
Reconstruction era; and Paul Sharp,
whose tenure was but two years. Harry
Chase’s name is on the new dining hall
within the Rams Head Center, and he may
yet get something more. Ferebee Taylor
’ 42 is believed to be in line for one of the
new dorms. Michael Hooker ’ 69 has an
intramural field and a proteomics lab in
his name besides the Michael Hooker
Research Labs in the School of Public
Health. James Moeser’s name is on an
office door in South Building.
The Booby Prize
In 1908, a rather stately structure on
Cameron Avenue was named for the
founding father of the University, William
Richardson Davie. A portion of the original building remains, but it’s the hidden
back part. The front was replaced in
1967 with what’s widely believed to be
the ugliest, or at least the most out of
place, hall on the campus. The Davie
Poplar is likely to outlive it.
Jumping into the big time
In the late 1880s, the president of Trinity College and its owners, the Methodist
Church, came to agreement that the 50-
year-old Trinity — confined to a single
building in Randolph County — would
better serve its mission in a more populous
place. Raleigh was chosen; in fact, the site
picked is now occupied by N.C. State University.
While the negotiations were going on,
the tobacco tycoon Buck Duke slipped in
to watch a Trinity commencement ceremony. Soon afterward, his son Benjamin
How Do You Forget
The man of steel gave $55,000 in
1907 to build a library on the northern end of the campus. But in 1929,
Wilson Library was built on the southern
end, and Carnegie’s building went over to
the music department. John Sprunt Hill
(class of 1889) put $73,000 toward the
cost of adding an auditorium and an
expensive organ to what became Hill
The Hill Legacy Lengthened
The alumni home away from home
also is a Hill hall. Durham business
leader and philanthropist George Watts
Hill Sr. ’22, son of John Sprunt Hill, gave
$3.5 million toward construction of the
alumni center that opened in 1993. Hill,
the GAA’s treasurer for 35 years, died
shortly before the doors opened underneath his name spelled out in gold lettering.