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In Retrospect

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in retrospect

The birth of a university: celebrating 40 years in the UNC System

By Kevan Frazier, Ph.D. ’92

UNC Asheville students in the 60s

On a warm afternoon during the summer of 1969, UNC Asheville was born.

North Carolina Gov. Robert Scott and President William Friday of the University of North Carolina system presided over a ceremony in Lipinsky Hall, which marked the official transition of Asheville- Biltmore College to the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

The ceremony was the final act of a multiyear drama that began in 1962 with the Governor’s Commission on Education Beyond the High School (the Carlyle Commission). The commission’s work led Asheville-Biltmore College to become a four-year school under the terms of the Omnibus Higher Education Act of 1963.

Having successfully transitioned the college to a four-year institution, the leadership at Asheville-Biltmore was ready for the next step. The Board of Trustees and the college’s president, William Highsmith, began efforts to join the UNC system.

Asheville-Biltmore found allies in the leadership of Wilmington College, which also sought to join the UNC system. In December 1968, a report commissioned by President Friday, was presented to the UNC Board of Trustees, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of adding Asheville-Biltmore and Wilmington to the system. A few weeks later, Asheville- Biltmore’s and Wilmington’s leadership met with the new governor, Robert Scott, who endorsed the plan and later included it in his first State of the State address.

In March, the plan was approved by the State Board of Education and forwarded on to the General Assembly. The bill passed both houses in April and on June 16, 1969, the Board of Trustees of Asheville-Biltmore College met for the last time and formally transferred all property to the University of North Carolina. Days later, on July 1, the University of North Carolina at Asheville officially came into existence.

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