CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has named existing grants and fellowships to honor courageous people who represent important “firsts” in the University’s history.
The need-based, undergraduate awards and graduate fellowships will recognize 21 members of the Carolina community, including Sallie Walker Stockard, the first woman graduate; Henry Owl, an EBCI tribal member who was the first American Indian to be admitted; and John L. Brandon, Ralph K. Frasier and LeRoy B. Frasier Jr., the first black undergraduates.
In 1929, Owl received a master’s degree in history from Chapel Hill with a thesis on the Eastern Band of Cherokee. He came from a large North Carolina Indian family that placed a high value on education. One year after Owl earned his master’s, western North Carolina officials used a literacy test to turn Cherokees away from the polls. Owl protested his exclusion by pointing to his degree as proof he could read. Officials then changed their tactics and claimed that Indians were not U.S. citizens. Even though the federal government authorized Cherokee suffrage in 1930, they did not vote in North Carolina until after World War II.
Chancellor Carol L. Folt was inspired to launch this initiative after a suggestion made by a Carolina student at last year’s Town Hall on race and inclusion. She asked Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions, to chair a special naming committee to develop a process and recommend honorees. Committee members represented the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, the American Indian Center, the department of African, African American and diaspora studies, the School of Education and the office of the vice chancellor for development.
“These brave firsts paved the way for all who followed and thanks to their courageous examples Carolina moved closer to the ideal of the University of the People,” Folt said. “The scholarships that bear the names of these extraordinary people will help deserving students make their own personal journey at Chapel Hill. We believe honoring their contributions to Carolina champions our commitment in word and deed to access and affordability for all.”
Identifying naming opportunities to honor a wider variety of important figures in Carolina’s history is one of many initiatives underway over the past year to better promote inclusion and diversity on campus.
The University plans to announce more newly named grants and anticipates additional naming opportunities later this year and in the coming years, as well as opportunities for community members to nominate possible honorees. These grants will continue to be awarded exclusively on the basis of demonstrated need.
– UNC Chapel Hill