Honorary Degree Recipients

Since 1986, UNC Asheville has presented honorary doctorate degrees to prominent education, civic and arts leaders at the May Commencement Ceremony. In the profiles below, information was current at the time the honorary degrees were conferred.

2017

Ko Barrett

Ko Barrett, a graduate of UNC Asheville, returned in 2017 as the commencement speaker. Barrett currently serves as the deputy assistant administrator for research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), supervising the daily operations and administration of NOAA’s research enterprise, and the execution of NOAA programs including the Climate Program Office, Ocean Acidification Program, the National Sea Grant College Program, Ocean Exploration and Research, and the Office of Weather and Air Quality research. Barrett earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies from UNC Asheville in 1994, where she was named a University Scholar as well as a Distinguished Research Scholar, and was elected a member of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. Her daughter, Elizabeth (Ellie) Hoover, graduated from UNC Asheville in 2014, with a degree in psychology.

Olson Huff, M.D.

Dr. Olson Huff, a Kentucky native, has practiced pediatrics in North Carolina all of his professional career, first in Charlotte, and since 1982, in Asheville, where in 1987 he established the child development program, subsequently named in his honor, at Thoms Hospital. In 1994, he became the founding Medical Director of the Ruth and Billy Graham Children’s Health Center at Mission Hospital and under his leadership, Mission Children’s Hospital, the only children’s hospital in Western North Carolina, was formed. The Olson Huff Center for Child Development became a part of the Children’s Hospital in 1996. He was also instrumental in the development of health care resources for underserved children in rural Western North Carolina. Dr. Huff serves on a number of boards and was recently appointed by the Governor of North Carolina to the N.C. Early Childhood Advisory Council. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky and a medical degree from the University of Louisville, and is a veteran of the United States Air Force.

Stoney Lamar

Stoney Lamar is a prolific woodturner who produces his work in Saluda, North Carolina, and has contributed exceptional skill and vision to the world of woodturning for more than 25 years. He has been creating, selling and exhibiting work constantly since the mid-80s, including public collections in the American Craft Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, and the Renwick Gallery of the Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Lamar has been a board member of the American Craft Council, president and board member of the Southern Highlands Handicraft Guild, a founding member of the American Association of Woodturners, and board president of the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design. He spent time at both UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC Asheville before receiving his degree in industrial arts from Appalachian State University.

Ellen Bird

Ellen Wachacha Bird is an elder of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and was recently given the title of Beloved Woman, a designation bestowed upon Cherokee women who are highly respected for their service to the community, their integrity and their good character. A fluent Cherokee speaker, she has shared her knowledge of Cherokee traditions, including medicines, quilting and food, not only with her 10 children, but also with the community. As a Beloved Woman, she is recognized as someone the community can call a sister, a mom or a grandmother, and she is well-known among children for teaching a quilting class in the Summer Arts Camp as part of the Graham County Indian Education Program. Bird was honored as a matriarch at the 100th anniversary of the Cherokee Indian Fair. She was also recognized as a Distinguished Citizen on Ned Long Day in November 2006.

2016

Virgil Smith

Virgil Smith, the 2016 commencement speaker, is a talented publisher and manager with 24 years at The Gannett Company, serving as vice president of talent management, vice president for talent acquisition and vice president for diversity. He was promoted to those posts after a decade as president and publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times and was the first African-American publisher of a mainstream newspaper in the state of North Carolina. Smith has won awards for distinguished leadership in increasing access and opportunities to people of color in journalism, and improving the coverage of communities of color in American media. His numerous local awards include the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce Partners in Education Volunteer of the Year Award; the 18th Annual Dr. King’s Legacy of Peace, Justice and Community Award; a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council; and many others. Smith earned his Bachelor of Science Degree and Master of Science Degree in Human Resources and Organization Development from the University of San Francisco. He also is the parent of a UNC Asheville alum.

John Cram

Creative entrepreneur John Cram has been called an influential figure in political and conservation arenas and a leader in the renaissance of the Asheville community. Cram moved to Asheville in the early 1970s, and over the course of two decades he started two galleries, two clothing stores, and revitalized Asheville’s Fine Arts Theatre. First he founded New Morning Gallery in Biltmore Village and started the Village Art and Craft Fair in the same year. That fair now brings more than 120 artists to Biltmore Village each August. He also opened the Blue Spiral 1 fine art gallery in downtown Asheville, and followed that by opening the Fine Arts Theatre next door. He later added a second clothing store downtown, Bellagio Everyday. In 2013, he received the state’s highest civilian honor, the North Carolina Award for fine arts. Most recently, he was designated a “Downtown Hero” by the Asheville Downtown Association.

Julia Ray

Centenarian Julia Ray has more than half a century of local business ownership and acumen to her name. She founded the Jesse Ray Funeral Home with her husband in 1938, and the 101-year-old maintains her license as a funeral director, though her son now operates the family business. She is also well-known on UNC Asheville’s campus, having established The Julia G. Ray Endowed Scholarship to support one student each year. Ray was the first African-American on the Board of Trustees of Mission Hospital, and she served as trustee for both UNC Asheville and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville (then called the NC Center for Creative Retirement). She also served on the Friends of the YMI and helped to establish the Goombay Festival. Among other honors, Ray is the recipient of the Mission/MAHEC Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for her pioneering service to the Asheville medical community. She was named a “Living Treasure” by Asheville’s Living Treasure Committee in 2013.

2015

Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash, the 2015 commencement speaker, is the author of two award-winning and best-selling novels, "A Land More Kind than Homeand "This Dark Road to Mercy." After growing up in Gastonia, Cash came to UNC Asheville where he became student body president, studied Appalachian history as well as literature, and fell in love with the rural mountain areas surrounding Asheville. He went on to earn a master’s degree at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Ph.D. at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, but carried with him reflections and images of Western North Carolina that pour forth in his writing. Cash now lives in Wilmington and teaches writing at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Fiction and Nonfiction Writing at Southern New Hampshire University.

Principal Chief Michell Hicks

Principal Chief Michell Hicks, a native of the Qualla Boundary, has been a leading public servant of the 15,000-member Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for two decades. He was first elected principal chief in 2003 and has continued to serve in that capacity, having been reelected in 2007 and 2011. During his tenure as principal chief, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has used expanded revenues from its gaming resort to improve the quality of life for the Cherokee, including the opening of a new Cherokee language-based school, the New Kituwah Academy. A certified public accountant with a background in finance, Hicks also served the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as executive director of budget and finance for approximately seven years before being elected principal chief. He also offers his leadership and expertise as board member on many important Native American institutions and organizations, including the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the National Congress of the American Indian, and the National Indian Gaming Association. Hicks was named 2015 Tribal Leader of the Year by the Native American Financial Officers Association.

2014

Arthur Levine

The 2014 commencement speaker, Arthur Levine, is one of America's leading experts on higher education and the way the beliefs and needs of college students have changed over generations. The author of many books, including his most recent, Generation on a Tightrope: A Portrait of Today’s College Student, Levine also has written numerous commentaries for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Education Week and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Levine currently serves as president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Levine also has held leadership positions in some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning, including Columbia University, where he was president and professor of education at Teachers College. At Harvard University, he served as chair of the higher education program, chair of the Institute for Educational Management and senior lecturer at the Graduate School of Education.

Eli Evans

Historian Eli Evans, a native of Durham, has chronicled the Jewish experience in towns throughout the American South, and in so doing, has shed new light on the Southern experience. Evans’ classic, "The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South," has been continuously in print since its publication in 1973, with updates in 1997 and a second edition in 2005 by University of North Carolina Press. Among Evans’ other works are "Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate," a biography of the Confederacy’s Secretary of State; and "The Lonely Days Were Sundays: Reflections of a Jewish Southerner," a collection of essays. Evans is a graduate of Yale Law School, a U.S. Navy veteran, and once served as a speechwriter for President Lyndon Johnson. Evans is president emeritus of the Charles H. Revson Foundation, which operates grant programs in urban affairs, Jewish life and education.

Franklin McCain

Franklin McCain (1941-2014) was honored posthumously with an honorary degree at the 2014 commencement. While just a freshman at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, McCain became a civil rights pioneer as one of the “Greensboro Four.” With three fellow freshmen, he began a sit-in at the then-segregated Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro. This protest and the resulting publicity contributed to an intensification of the sit-in movement that helped desegregate public facilities across the South. McCain went on to become a chemist, a member of the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, a trustee for North Carolina Central University, and as a member of the UNC Board of Governors, was liaison to UNC Asheville. Members of McCain's family – Franklin McCain Jr., Vicki McCain, Taylor McCain, and Franklin McCain III – along with Janice Allen, widow of another of the Greensboro Four, attended commencement to receive the honorary degree.

2013

Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni, the 2013 commencement speaker, is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator. A native of Knoxville, Tenn., who grew up in Cincinnati, Giovanni graduated with honors from Fisk University and later studied at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. Giovanni is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech and author of some 30 books for both adults and children. Known for her outspoken advocacy for civil rights, Giovanni is also one of the most widely-read American poets; she has been awarded the Langston Hughes Medal for poetry. Her children's picture book "Rosa," about the civil rights legend Rosa Parks, reached number three on the New York Times Bestseller list and became a Caldecott Honors Book. Her autobiography, "Gemini," was a finalist for the National Book Award. Giovanni was named Woman of the Year by Mademoiselle, Ladies’ Home Journal and Ebony magazines and was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award.

Warren Haynes

One of Asheville’s favorite native sons, Warren Haynes is known for expanding his musical and philanthropic contributions to his hometown while achieving national and international stature that continues to grow in the world of rock music. Haynes first gained fame for his singing, guitar work and songwriting as a member of the Allman Brothers Band, and he has developed a long-term musical relationship with Phil Lesh and Friends and also performed with The Dead (led by former members of the Grateful Dead). Haynes also is a founding member of Gov’t Mule, which continues to thrive after almost two decades and 16 albums. In Asheville, Haynes is thought of most fondly at holiday time, thanks to his annual Warren Haynes Presents Christmas Jam, which draws top talent from across the country and has become one of the city’s largest charity fundraising events. Haynes has used the Jam to raise more than $1 million for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. Haynes has won several Grammy awards and ranks at number 23 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”

2012

Erskine B. Bowles

Erskine Bowles served as president of the multi-campus University of North Carolina from 2006 to 2011. Born and raised in Greensboro, N.C., he is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1967) and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. After beginning his career at Morgan Stanley & Co., he later returned home to North Carolina, and during his life founded multiple financial companies. In 1993, Bowles was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as director of the Small Business Administration. He later was tapped to serve as Clinton’s deputy White House chief of staff (1994–95) and White House chief of staff (1996–98). As chief of staff, he helped negotiate the first balanced budget in a generation. After he left the White House, Bowles returned to the finance and investment industries while continuing his lifelong commitment to public service.

Alfred J. Whitesides Jr.

Al Whitesides is best known throughout the Asheville community as a successful businessman, a community leader and a living touchstone to the city’s struggle to eliminate segregation. While attending the segregated African-American Stephens-Lee High School in the early 1960s, he and his classmates joined ASCORE (Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality). The group organized and participated in nonviolent demonstrations to desegregate local businesses. Whitesides remained active in the Civil Rights movement while attending college, often bringing his textbooks to lunch-counter sit-ins. After working for 34 years with First Union National Bank, and later Wachovia, Whitesides joined with Mountain 1st Bank and Trust, where he served as vice president until retirement. Today, he is president of the UNC Asheville Bulldog Athletic Association and was chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees. He also has served the Asheville City Schools Board of Education, YMI Cultural Center and Mission Healthcare Foundation Board.

2011

Thomas W. Ross

Thomas W. Ross became the fifth president of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system in January 2011. A native of Greensboro, N.C., he holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Davidson College (1972) and graduated with honors from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law (1975). At age 33, Ross was appointed to the North Carolina Superior Court—a position he held for 17 years. During that time, he led the development of innovative sentencing policies for violent criminals and repeat offenders. The new system was adopted by the N.C. General Assembly and became a model for similar programs nationwide. In 2007, Ross was named president of Davidson College. Under his leadership, the college implemented the Davidson Trust, which provides grants that allow students to graduate debt-free.

Clemmie Dixon “Dick” Spangler

Dick Spangler is an accomplished North Carolina businessman and education leader. The first in his family to go to college, Spangler graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and earned a master’s degree from Harvard University Business School. Spangler paired his business achievements with a dedication to public service. In 1972, he was elected to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. There he championed the integration of North Carolina public schools and the establishment of public kindergarten for all five-year-olds. In 1986, Spangler was named the second president of the University of North Carolina system. Though he held the office for 11 years, Spangler never accepted a paycheck, choosing instead to donate his salary back to the university system. As president, Spangler fought hard to keep tuition “as low as practicable,” and he selected the university system’s first two women chancellors.

2010

Bernice Johnson Reagon

Renowned singer, speaker, and civil rights worker, Bernice Johnson Reagon was an original member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee Freedom Singers, a founding member of the Harambee Singers and she formed the internationally renowned African American women's a capella ensemble, Sweet Honey In The Rock. She led the group until retirement in early 2004 and has been featured on numerous solo and group recordings. She has also acted as music consultant, composer and performer for several film and video projects, including the award-winning "Eyes on the Prize," the Emmy-winning "We Shall Overcome" and the feature film "Beloved." She wrote a seminal text on the subject of African American sacred music. Professor emeritus of history at American University, Reagon also served as curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and as the 2002-04 Cosby Chair of Fine Arts at Spelman College. Currently, she is a popular speaker at venues across the nation, performing in her unique song-talk style.

Dean Smith

Dean Smith, a basketball legend, coached the North Carolina Tar Heels from 1961 until his retirement in 1997, winning two national championships. Under Smith, the UNC-Chapel Hill men’s basketball program had one of the nation’s highest winning percentages and one of the nation’s highest graduation rates, with 96.6% of its players earning their degrees. While at North Carolina, Smith also helped promote desegregation by recruiting the university's first African American scholarship basketball player, Charlie Scott, and working for equal treatment for African Americans by local businesses. Dean Smith was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983, two years after his induction into the North Carolina Hall of Fame. The basketball arena at UNC-Chapel Hill, the Dean Smith Center, also known as the “Dean Dome,” is named for Smith.

Roy Williams

Asheville native Roy Williams, coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, is among the most successful college basketball coaches in history. His teams have a combined 611–154 record, the highest winning percentage of any coach in men’s basketball with ten years experience. Williams coached the University of Kansas men’s basketball team for 15 years, reaching the NCAA Tournament Final Four four times. Then in 2003, he took over as head coach of UNC-Chapel Hill where his teams have won two national championships. He has also won the Associated Press Coach of the Year award twice. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Williams began his coaching career at Owen High School in Swannanoa. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

2009

Dr. Les Purce

Dr. Purce has served as president of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., a nationally recognized public liberal arts institution, for nine years. Purce has also held top-ranking administrative roles at Washington State University and Idaho State University. He has been a civic leader as well. Purce was the first black elected official in Idaho, serving as city councilman and then mayor of Pocatello. He later served as director of Idaho’s departments of Administration and Health & Welfare. In the private sector, Purce was partner and CEO of Power Engineering Inc., a large electrical engineering firm in the Northwest.

Arthel "Doc" Watson

"Doc" Watson (1923-2012), a native of Western North Carolina, was  a legendary guitar player, songwriter, and singer of bluegrass, folk and country music. Blind since the age of one, Watson attended North Carolina’s school for the visually impaired in Raleigh. Though he did well in the classroom, his true love was music. Watson got his big career break at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, and recorded his first solo album the following year. He won seven Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of the Arts and was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

2008

Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole

Renowned educator and humanitarian Johnnetta B. Cole made history when she became the first African American woman to be named president of Spelman College. Later, Cole served as president of Bennett College for Women. She is the only individual to have served as the president of the two historically black colleges for women in the United States. Much of her time is now centered in her role as the chair of the board of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute founded at Bennett College for Women. Cole is also committed to community service. She serves on numerous prominent boards, including the National Visionary Leadership Project, TransAfrica Forum and Africa University in Zimbabwe. From 2004-2006, she was the chair of the board of United Way of America - the first person of color to hold that position - and she continues to serve on that board. She is on the advisory board of The Atlanta Falcons and The Smithsonian's Scholarly Advisory Board for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

2007

Ernest Gaines

Ernest Gaines, a professor of English and writer-in-residence at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is acclaimed for his novels and short stories, including the Pulitzer Prize-nominated "A Lesson Before Dying" and "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," which was made into a popular television movie. Gaines was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his 1997 novel, "A Lesson Before Dying," which received the National Book Critics Circle Award, Southern Book Award, Langston Hughes Award, Louisiana Literary Award and Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award. It was also named an Oprah Book Club Selection in 1997. Gaines is also a MacArthur Fellow, 1993 Louisiana Humanist of the Year and 2000 Louisiana Writer of the Year. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has received a National Humanities Medal.

Donald Sultan

Donald Sultan, a successful New York artist, is a native of Asheville and graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. After receiving a Master of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago, Sultan moved to New York in 1975 to begin his career. Sultan quickly established himself as a prominent painter, printmaker and sculptor. He has exhibited his extensive body of work in some of the most prestigious galleries and museums around the world. His works are included in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Sultan’s art is on display in the galleries of his alma maters and in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Australian National Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gardens of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, among others.

2006

James E. Ferguson II

Nationally renowned civil rights attorney James E. Ferguson II is a 1960 graduate of Stephens-Lee High School and the first president of the Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality (ASCORE), which held peaceful demonstrations to desegregate local establishments during 1959-1965. A graduate of Columbia University Law School, he has won numerous awards from organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

Doris W. Betts

Prize-winning author Doris W. Betts (1932-2012) produced nine short story collections and novels, including "Souls Raised from the Dead" and "The Sharp Teeth of Love." She taught creative writing for 35 years at UNC Chapel Hill, retiring as Alumni Distinguished Professor of English in 2001. Betts received the 1975 North Carolina Award in Literature and in 2004 was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

The Commencement Address was given by Chancellor Anne Ponder.

2005

Martha Craven Nussbaum

Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago Law School; she also holds appointments in the university’s Philosophy Department, Divinity School and Law School. The recipient of many academic awards and honors, Dr. Nussbaum is a prolific author and editor whose books have brought her worldwide acclaim as a legal theorist, a philosopher and a classical scholar.

William Ivey Long

Native North Carolinian William Ivey Long is a four-time Tony Award-winning costume designer in New York. Long comes from a family with great theater tradition, and grew up, quite literally, on stage. He is the National Theatre Conference’s Person of the Year for 2000, and he is the recipient of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Legend of Fashion Award.

Amanda Swimmer

A native and lifelong resident of Big Cove on the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, Amanda Swimmer works in a time-honored tradition that was almost lost during the 19th-century Cherokee removal to Oklahoma. A founding member of the Cherokee Potters Guild, Mrs. Swimmer began creating pots with local clay in the 1930s. She continues to teach—at Cherokee Elementary School, where she is passing the gifts of knowledge and creativity to the younger generation, and throughout Western North Carolina, including the renowned John C. Campbell Folk School and a number of colleges.

2004

Sharon Begley

Sharon Begley has been the science columnist at The Wall Street Journal since April 2002 when she launched the "Science Journal." She is widely known for her ability to break down complex scientific theories and write about them in elegant prose. During her 25 year career at Newsweek, she wrote numerous award winning articles. She has discussed science issues on news programs such as The Charlie Rose Show, Today and The CBS Morning Show, and her articles have appeared in Smart Money, National Wildlife, Modern Maturity and Astronomy magazines. Begley is co-author of the books "The Mind and the Brain" (2002) and "The Hand of God" (1999). She holds a bachelor's degree in combined sciences from Yale University.

Evan S. Dobelle

Evan S. Dobelle is a noted educator and politician. He has served as president of the University of Hawaii, Trinity College, Middlesex Community College and City College of San Francisco. His career in public service included posts as commissioner of environmental management and natural resources for Massachusetts and U.S. chief of protocol for the White House in the Carter administration. He holds three degrees in education from the University of Massachusetts and a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University. After his leadership in the revitalization of the Hartford, Conn. neighborhood surrounding Trinity, Dobelle was named New Englander of the Year and was inducted into the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Hall of Fame in Atlanta in 1999. The Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel at Morehouse College recognized him in 2002 as a "drum major for the social potential movement."

Jerome J. Richardson

Charlotte businessman Jerry Richardson is the founder and owner of the Carolina Panthers. A two-time All-American at Wofford College and member of the Baltimore Colts' 1959 championship team, Richardson invested his playoff check in a Hardee's restaurant in Spartanburg that was the foundation for Flagstar Companies Inc. His impact on the city is far-reaching. Richardson spearheaded the fund-raising effort for a new library and built the tallest structure in Spartanburg as headquarters for his food-service company, thereby helping to revitalize the downtown. Richardson's contributions to the community have been recognized through a number of distinguished awards, including the Order of the Long Leaf Pine and the Order of the Palmetto, North and South Carolina's highest service awards.

Clifton R. Wharton, Jr.

Wharton was chairman and chief executive officer of the largest pension fund in the world, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association and the College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA CREF), from 1987 to 1993, when he became President Clinton's Deputy Secretary of State. During the 1970s and '80s, he was president of Michigan State University and chancellor of the State University of New York system. An economist with degrees from Harvard, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago, Wharton spent his early career in foreign economic and agricultural development in Latin America and Southeast Asia working for the Rockefeller family philanthropic interests. He has held appointments under six Presidents and received the 1983 President's Award on World Hunger.

2003

Frank Rhodes

Frank Rhodes is professor of geological sciences and president emeritus of Cornell University, where he served for 18 years. A native of Great Britain, he has resided in the United States for many years and has come to be regarded as one of America's most respected educational leaders. Rhodes holds three degrees from the University of Birmingham, England and is a former Fulbright scholar and Fulbright distinguished fellow, a National Science Foundation senior visiting research fellow, a visiting fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge, and an honorary fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. Rhodes has published widely in the fields of geology, paleontology, evolution, the history of science and education. He is the former chair of the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the National Science Board.

Henry Frye

Henry Frye served as Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court from 1999 to 2001, and prior to that he served for 16 years as an associate justice. His career began in 1968, when he became the first African-American to be elected to the N.C. House of Representatives in the 20th century. He served in the State House for 12 years and was then elected to a two-year term in the N.C. Senate. He is a distinguished visiting professor of political science and justice at North Carolina A&T State University. Frye holds degrees from N.C. A&T State and the UNC Chapel Hill Law School.

Yolanda Moses

Moses, a nationally acclaimed cultural anthropologist, is an expert on cultural diversity. She is the author of numerous articles on issues related to cultural change in the United States and in the Caribbean as well as cultural change and diversity in public policy and higher education. Moses is president of the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), a professional membership association for leaders of the nation's colleges and universities. Prior to assuming this role, she served from 1993-1999 as president of The City College of New York and was the first African-American to serve as president of the 11,000-member American Anthropological Association. Moses earned her bachelor's degree at California State College at San Bernardino and her doctorate from the University of California at Riverside.

Hugh Morton

Hugh Morton (1921-2006) was one of North Carolina's most effective advocates for conservation of the state's natural environment. As the owner of Grandfather Mountain, he was an exemplary steward, preserving this natural treasure while providing access and environmental education for visitors. Morton also played a crucial role in raising public awareness of the threat posed by air pollution through the production of a major documentary for PBS. In addition to his distinguished public leadership, Morton was an accomplished photographer and photojournalist, whose work appeared in publications ranging from road atlases to sports histories.

2002

LeRoy T. Walker

LeRoy Walker (1918-2012) began his 45-year career in education as an athletic coach at N.C. Central University, where he eventually served as chancellor from 1983-1986. The first African-American to earn a doctorate in exercise physiology and biomechanics from New York University, Walker became one of the nation’s most successful track and field coaches, producing 111 All-Americans, 40 National Champions and 12 Olympians. Walker also coached Olympic teams from Ethiopia, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya and Trinidad-Tobago. In 1976 he became the first African-American to coach a U.S. Olympic team. Twenty years later, at the apex of his four-year term as president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, his influence and stature were cited as pivotal reasons for the 1996 Summer Games to be held in his native Atlanta. In addition, he served as president of the Special Olympics World Games in 1999. Walker earned an array of awards and recognitions, including an induction into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame.

Thomas J. Fazio

Thomas Fazio is a world-renowned designer of golf courses and a notable benefactor of children’s causes. Many of the most acclaimed golf courses built in the United States in recent decades bear his stamp. The popular journal Golf Digest discontinued its poll for best modern-day golf course architect after Fazio claimed that award three consecutive times. He and his wife Sue, who are the parents of six children, reside in Hendersonville. They are active in a variety of charitable endeavors, both in the local community and beyond. Fazio and his wife share a special interest in the welfare of children, providing support for children’s causes throughout the nation via the Tom Fazio Children’s Charity Fund.

Muriel Siebert

Muriel Siebert (1928-2013) was a national leader in field of finance. In 1967, she became the first woman to be named a member of the New York Stock Exchange and for the next ten years was the only female among its more than one thousand members. Her firm, Muriel Siebert & Co., was an innovative leader in introducing discount brokerage services in 1975. From 1977 to 1982, Siebert served as Superintendent of Banking for the State of New York. Resigning from that post to run for the United States Senate, she lost the Republican primary but remained active in civic and charitable activities.

Edward Villella

Villella is a preeminent figure in dance. Principal dancer with the New York City Ballet from 1958 to 1976, he later became founding artistic director and chief executive officer of the Miami City Ballet, a post in which he continues to serve. Villella has the distinction of being the only American ever asked to dance an encore at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. He has served as a visiting artist at a number of the nation’s leading institutions of higher education, including Harvard, Yale and the United States Military Academy at West Point. Villella serves as a trustee of the Wolf Trap Foundation and the School of American Ballet.

2001

John Hope Franklin

John Hope Franklin (1915-2009), an Oklahoma native, earned his doctorate at Harvard University. During the course of his career, he served in a number of distinguished academic positions, including that of Pitt Professor of American History at Cambridge University and the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University. He was the author of numerous publications, including the landmark "From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans," now in its seventh edition. In 1995, Franklin was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Clinton, the highest honor an American civilian can receive. Franklin also held important roles of civic leadership, including his recent past service as chairman of the advisory board of One America: The President’s Initiative on Race.

Myra Janco Daniels

Myra Janco Daniels, who achieved outstanding success as an advertising industry executive, now serves as chair, president and chief executive officer of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, Fla. At age 24, she founded her own advertising agency, rising through the ranks of the industry to become president of the national firm Draper Daniels. She organized a fund-raising drive in 1983 that led to the creation of the $21 million Philharmonic Center, which opened in 1989. Daniels also founded the Naples Museum of Art, a subsidiary of the Philharmonic Center.

Adelaide Daniels Key

Adelaide Daniels Key grew up in Raleigh but has lived in Western North Carolina for most of her adult life. She was the guiding force in the creation of the Lewis Rathburn Center, an innovative facility providing a caring and supportive residential environment in Asheville for serious illness. She also inspired the creation of UNC Asheville’s Key Center for Service Learning, which is named in her honor. Key served two terms on the University's Foundation Board, is currently chair of Western Carolina’s Board of Trustees, and has served on Warren Wilson’s Board of Trustees. In 1999, Key was presented the UNC Asheville's Chancellor’s Medallion, one of the most distinguished honors the University can bestow.

2000

William C. Friday

William C. Friday (1920-2012) was a champion of quality education in North Carolina. He was named president of the University of North Carolina in 1956, at the age of 36, and held that position for three decades. During that time, he successfully saw the university through consolidation into a 16-campus system and dealt with a host of social and political issues. Friday played an important role in national education policy, serving as chair of the American Council on Education in 1964 and the President's Task Force on Education in 1966-67, among others. Friday's approachable personal style and lively intellect were key factors in the popularity of his weekly show, "North Carolina People," airing on UNC-TV.

Roy Carroll

Roy Carroll, who served as interim chancellor at UNC Asheville in 1990-91, recently retired from the University of North Carolina after a 45-year career. Carroll holds a doctorate in history from Vanderbilt University, and served as the chair of Appalachian State University's history department before joining the University of North Carolina's General Administration in 1979. There he served first as vice president for planning and later as senior vice president and vice president for academic affairs in 1996. He has published articles in professional historical journals in the U.S. and England, and has written extensively on academic program development, teaching and tenure, and governance in higher education.

Girard Etzkorn

Girard Etzkorn, an internationally known scholar of medieval manuscripts and an emeritus professor, has devoted his life to making accessible the texts of important medieval thinkers. During his 22 years at the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University, he worked an editor of the institute's research projects, overseeing the publication of key modern editions of medieval philosophers William of Ockham and John Duns Scotus.

Cynthia Ozick

A major American writer of fiction and essays, Cynthia Ozick's the author of many widely acclaimed works of fiction, including "The Shawl," "The Puttermesser Papers" and "The Pagan Rabbi." She has also published three collections of essays, "Art & Ardor," "Metaphor & Memory," and "Fame & Folly," and is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine. She has received many prestigious awards, including the Jewish Theological Seminary's Distinguished Jewish Letters Award, the National Jewish Book Council Award for Distinguished Literary Contribution, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Strauss Living Award.

William Raspberry

William Raspberry, who holds a 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary, was named one of the top 50 most influential journalists in the national press corps by Washingtonian magazine. His syndicated commentary on topics ranging from education to justice appears in 225 newspapers. Raspberry joined the Washington Post in 1962; his coverage of the 1965 Watts riot in Los Angeles earned him the Capital Press Club's "Journalist of the Year Award." Among his honors is the 1994 National Association of Black Journalists' Lifetime Achievement Award. Raspberry teaches at Duke University, where he is the Knight Professor in Communications and Journalism.

1999

No honorary degrees were presented in 1999.
The Commencement Address was given by Chancellor Patsy Reed.

1998

Julius L. Chambers

Julius L. Chambers (1936-2013) was a noted civil rights attorney and chancellor of North Carolina Central University. Chambers opened his law practice in Charlotte in 1964 and the practice became the first integrated law firm in North Carolina. The firm successfully litigated civil rights cases and won landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings. In 1984, Chambers left the firm to become director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York. He returned to North Carolina in 1993 to become chancellor at North Carolina Central University.

Glenn L. Bushey

Glenn L. Bushey (1905-2006) served as president of UNC Asheville's predecessor institution, Asheville-Biltmore College, from 1947 to 1962. He presided over a number of critical transitions in the University's history and helped prepare the institution to become a four-year university. When Bushey became president of Asheville-Biltmore College, it had an enrollment of 250 and was located on Merrimon Avenue. Bushey oversaw the college's moves to Seely Castle on Town Mountain Road in 1949 and to the present location in 1961.

1997

James R. Schlesinger

Longtime civil servant James R. Schlessinger currently serves as senior advisor to the investment banking firm of Lehman Brothers and is chairman of the MITRE Corporation Board of Trustees. He first rose to prominence when President Nixon selected him to become chairman of the Atomic Energy Comission in 1971, a post he held until he was named director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1973. Later that year, he was appointed secretary of defense, a post he held until 1975. In 1976, President-elect Carter asked Schlesinger to become assistant to the president, charged with drafting a plan for the establishment of the Department of Energy and a national energy policy. Schlesinger became the nation's first Secretary of Energy in 1977 and held this post until 1979. He has received numerous awards, including the National Security Medal and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Distinguished Service Medal. Schlesinger holds a doctorate from Harvard University.

Claudio Malo Gonzalez

Claudio Malo Gonzalez, a leading figure in intellectual and cultural affairs in Ecuador, served as Fulbright Visiting Professor of Humanities at UNC Asheville in 1989, helping to expand cultural understanding and internationalize the curriculum.

Wilma Dykeman Stokely

A native of Asheville, Wilma Dykeman Stokley (1920-2006) was a venerable Southern writer. She began writing as a child and earned degrees from Biltmore Junior College and Northwestern University. She and her husband, poet and nonfiction writer James R. Stokley, collaborated on several books. In addition, Dykeman Stokley wrote radio scripts, short stories and articles for Harper's, New York Times Magazine and Reader's Digest. In all, she published more than sixteen books, including the acclaimed "The French Broad" and "The Tall Woman." Dykeman Stokley received many honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the 1985 North Carolina Award for Literature.

1996

Charles Kuralt

Native North Carolinian Charles Kuralt (1934-1996) was an esteemed newsman. During his 37-year career at CBS News, he and his "On the Road" camera crew visited every state many times. For 15 years, Kuralt was also the host of "Sunday Morning" on CBS. His work earned three Peabody Awards and 14 Emmy Awards. He is also a well-known author. Kuralt published six books, and his memoir "A Life on the Road," was the number one non-fiction best seller of 1990. Hailed by Time Magazine as "the laureate of the common man," Kuralt began his journalism career at UNC Chapel as editor of the "The Daily Tar Heel."

Leah and Morris Karpen

Leah, who grew up in Asheville, was on the first individuals to earn a master's of liberal arts degree from UNC Asheville. Morris (1916-2002) who moved from New York to the Asheville area for an intended retirement, went on to found Karpen Steel Products Inc. and Laser Precision Cutting Inc. in Weaverville. They have been generous donors to educational and community causes in Western North Carolina. UNC Asheville's Karpen Hall is named in their honor.

1995

Irwin Belk

Charlotte philanthropist Irwin Belk is the retired president of the Belk Group of department stores. A generous contributor to higher education in North Carolina, Mr. Belk served two terms on the UNC Board of Governors. He is a former state senator and was appointed a U.S. delegate to the 54th United Nations General Assembly. Belk served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and as president of the American Cancer Society Foundation.

1994

Dudley E. Flood

Dudley E. Flood is a popular inspirational speaker and well-known educator. He has served as a high school teacher, school principal and associate state superintendent. Flood is executive director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators.

Rodrigo Borja Cevallos

Rodrigo Borja Cevallos is former President of the Republic of Ecuador. He acted as president from 1988-1992. A native of Quito, Ecuador's capital city, he helped found the Party of the Democratic Left, a socialist political party which quickly gained strength. He served several terms in Congress, and ran for the presidency three times before successfully winning office. Like all Ecuadorian presidents, he was not allowed to seek a second term. After his presidency, he remained the leader of the Party of the Democratic Left.

1993

Clyde Edgerton

Beloved Southern author Clyde Edgerton has achieved national acclaim with his short stories and novels, including "Walking Across Egypt," "Raney" and "Killer Diller." Considered an authority on Southern literature and founder of the Algonquin Books publishing company, Edgerton was a distinguished professor of English at UNC Chapel Hill. He served as editor of several literary journals, including the Hollins Critic and the Southern Literary Journal. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993 and the Lyndhurst Prize in 1991.

Louis D. Rubin Jr.

Editor, novelist, essayist, teacher and publisher Louis D. Rubin Jr. (1923-2013) had an immeasurable effect on a generation of North Carolina writers and readers. A native of Charleston, S.C. and a World War II vet, Rubin held a bachelor's degree from the University of Richmond and master's and doctorate degrees from Johns Hopkins University. As a graduate student, he co-edited his first book, "Southern Renascence," which established Rubin as a major figure in Southern literature. He continued to write prolifically, publishing more than 40 books. Following a distinguished newspaper career, Rubin taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Hollins College before joining the faculty at UNC Chapel Hill, where he stayed for 22 years.

1992

Lloyd Dobyns

Retired NBC broadcast journalist Lloyd Dobyns was a correspondent and program anchor from 1969 to 1986. He received 28 major awards, including a George Foster Peabody Award, a Humanitas Prize and two Christopher Awards for writing. Dobyns has worked in 47 states and 46 countries, including two years as Paris bureau chief and European correspondent and two years as Tokyo bureau chief and senior Asia correspondent. He specializes in international economics and the worldwide quality movement and is co-author of "Quality or Else" and writer-narrator of the Public Broadcasting Service documentary "Quality… Or Else!"

1991

Jason McManus

Jason McManus is Time Warner's fourth editor-in-chief. He joined Time Inc. in 1957 as a summer intern with Sports Illustrated magazine, then worked at the company full-time as a writer in Time magazine's World section after wrapping up a Rhodes scholarship at New College, Oxford University. He was the magazine's first European Common Market reporter and directed the creation of a European edition. As senior editor from 1969 to 1976, he directed the magazine's coverage of Watergate. McManus holds a master's degree in public affairs from Princeton University.

1990

Gail Godwin

Best-selling author Gail Godwin is a native of Asheville. A graduate of UNC Chapel Hill's journalism school, Godwin began her writing career at the Miami Herald. Later she earned a master's and doctorate degree in English from the University of Iowa. Her thesis became her first published novel, "The Perfectionists." That book launched a prolific writing career; she has published nine books and has been nominated for a National Book Award three times. Three of her recent books were New York Times bestsellers. Godwin lives in Woodstock, N.Y., with her longtime companion, the composer Robert Starer.

Arnold Kimsey King

Arnold Kimsey King (1901-1992), former vice president for University of North Carolina Institutional Studies, was a longtime friend of UNC Asheville. He was instrumental in the decision to bring Asheville-Biltmore College, UNC Asheville's predecessor institution, into the state university system. In addition, King  served as acting chancellor in 1977, while Chancellor William Highsmith recovered from a serious illness.

Eugene Pleasants Odum

Distinguished scientist Eugene Pleasants Odum (1913-2002) was widely heralded as "the father of modern ecology." He brought the word "ecosystem" into common parlance by making it the organizing concept in his groundbreaking 1953 book "Fundamentals of Ecology." Through that textbook, which was translated into 12 languages, and through his many other books and articles, he led the way toward the study of nature in terms of ecosystems and powerfully influenced the development of ecosystem ecology. Odum grew up in Chapel Hill and earned his A.B. and A.M. in zoology from UNC Chapel Hill. He held a doctorate in zoology, with a major in ecology, from the University of Illinois in 1939.

1989

Walt W. Rostow

Economist and author Walt W. Rostow (1916-2003) served in a number of high-level government positions. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Rostow as deputy special assistant to the president for national security affairs. He was later appointed counselor of the U.S. Department of State and chairman of the Policy Planning Council of the Department of State. In 1964, the President appointed him to the additional duty of United States member of the Inter-American Committee on the Alliance for Progress with the rank of ambassador. He served in these latter two capacities until early 1966, when President Johnson called him back to the White House as his special assistant for national security affairs. After leaving Washington, Rostow taught economics and history at University of Texas at Austin. The author of more than 30 books, Rostow held a doctorate from Yale and attended Balliol College, Oxford, England, as a Rhodes Scholar.

Russell Edgerton

Russell Edgerton is chairman of the American Association for Higher Education. He began his career in higher education as an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He then moved into public service as a special assistant to Department of Health, Education and Welfare secretaries Robert Finch and Elliot Richardson, and as a member of the Planning and Evaluation Staff in the Office of the Secretary. He was deeply involved in working on the Education Amendments Act of 1972, and helped author several national reports on higher education. Edgerton grew up in Los Angeles and holds a doctorate in public law and government from Columbia University.

John M. Reynolds

Buncombe County native John M. Reynolds is a longtime contributor to the University. Following four years in the Navy and completion of college, Reynolds was asked by the chairman of the County Commissioners to serve on the board of Asheville-Biltmore College, UNC Asheville's predecessor institution. Reynolds, along with his uncle A. C. Reynolds, became very active in the school's development. He was instrumental in obtaining a $500,000 bond for the College, raising other funds, and in deciding on the school's present location. In 1977, he received UNC Asheville's Distinguished Service Award.

1988

Robert L. Gale

Robert L. Gale’s distinguished career has spanned higher education, government service, publishing and consulting. For 18 years, he was president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), the only national association serving public and private university board members. Prior to his appointment to AGB, he founded Gale Associates Inc., a consulting firm that worked with nonprofit organizations on strategic planning, program development and fundraising. In addition, he was the first director of recruiting for the Peace Corps and later acted as director of public affairs. Gale is a member of the board of directors of the National Peace Corps Association and was a founder and board member of the National Center of Nonprofit Boards.

Fred D. Chappell

Canton native Fred D. Chappell is a widely acclaimed author. Chappell's first novel, "Dagon," is a recasting of a Cthulhu Mythos horror story as a psychologically realistic Southern Gothic. It was named Best Foreign Book of the Year by the Academie Française. Chappell joined the UNC Greensboro English Department faculty in 1962 and recently received the O. Max Gardner Award, the highest teaching award given by the UNC system.

Ernest A. Mills

Businessman Ernest A. Mills founded Mills Manufacturing in New York City in 1935. The company moved to Asheville in 1952 and since that time has been devoted entirely to the manufacturing of military parachutes and related components. Mills and his wife Albina have established a number of important endowments at the University, including the Mills Foundaiton, which provides a variety of scholarships. Mills Residence Hall was constructed and named in their honor in 1987.

1987

John Ehle

Noted author John Ehle is a native of Asheville. He is the author of 17 books -- ranging from historical novels to nonfiction surveys of French wine and cheese -- which have been translated into more than six languages. As a member of North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford's staff in the 1960s, he was the "idea man" and an integral part of the creation of the North Carolina School of the Arts and the Governor's School. He went on to serve with the White House Group for Domestic Affairs and on the First National Council of the Humanities. Ehle also helped start the North Carolina Film Board, North Carolina Institute of Outdoor Drama, the North Carolina Advancement School and the North Carolina School of Science and Math. Five-time winner of the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for fiction, Ehle holds bachelor's and master's degrees from UNC Chapel Hill, where he also taught for 10 years.

Virginia Bryan Schreiber

Virginia Bryan Schreiber joined the faculty of Buncombe County Junior College, UNC Asheville's predecessor institution, in 1928. For many years she taught freshman composition and sophomore English literature and served as Dean of Women. Schreiber and her students formed the Bluets, a creative writing magazine, which won several national awards.

1986

Merrimon A. Cunninggim

North Carolinian Merrimon A. Cunninggim served as president of Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C., from 1976-79. A Rhodes Scholar, Cunninggim holds degrees from Vanderbilt University, Duke University, Oxford University and Yale University. He served as professor of religion at several institutions before becoming dean of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. Cunninggim has served as advisor to the president of the Ford Foundation and as executive director of the Danforth Foundation. He is the author of several noted books, including "The College Seeks Religion," "The Protestant Stake in Higher Education" and "Private Money and Public Service: The Role of Foundations in American Society."

Sarah Belk Gambrell

Sarah Belk Gambrell is an accomplished businesswoman and civic leader in Charlotte and the Southeastern United States. She serves as a director for Belk, Inc., which includes 210 department stores spread across sixteen states. She is also very active in business and civic affairs and the arts in New York City, where she maintains a second residence. Gambrell has demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to the cultural life of the state, especially music and the visual arts. She was a longtime board member of the Friends of Art and the Friends of Music at Queens University and was the catalyst for a creative collaboration between the Friends of Music and Charlotte Sister Cities.

Roy A. Taylor

Roy A. Taylor (1910-1995) was a 1929 graduate of Asheville-Biltmore College, UNC Asheville's predecessor institution. He continued his education at Asheville University Law School, earning a law degree. He practiced law in Asheville until World War II. Taylor served in the Navy and was a commanding officer of a tank landing ship. After the war, Taylor went into politics and was elected to the North Carolina Congress, where he served two consecutive terms. He went back to practicing law, but in 1960 North Carolina Congressman David M. Hall died while in office, and Taylor was elected to take his place. Taylor served out the term as the 12th District Representative, and was elected to eight more terms as the 11th District Representative. Throughout his legal and political career, Taylor has remained dedicated to his alma mater. He served on the Board of Trustees for 11 years and created the Roy A. Taylor Public Speaking Contest, which offers cash prizes to students.