The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Openingnotes Section Title
Beth English Photo

I remember my first night at college. How I looked around the room, waiting for an unknown roommate to arrive, feeling scared and anxious. I worried that I wouldn't make friends or that classes would be too hard for me.

When the university's first African-American students, JoAnne Smart Drane '60 and Bettye Ann Tillman Sanders '60, stepped foot on campus, they also had no idea what to expect. But their fears were far different from mine. Would people protest? Would they spit or jeer? Or worse? JoAnne later wrote about their first night in Shaw Hall, saying they ate the entire pound of chocolate candy her father had given her because they were too scared to go out. When you read the letters to interim Chancellor Pierson that JoAnne has researched for a book she is writing with two other alumnae, you can understand why. Those letters give an ugly context for the time. And while not everyone felt that way, enough did to make it a situation fraught with uncertainty. They, and those who came after them, were amazingly brave. And look at where we are now — the most diverse of the historically white universities in the UNC system.

And then just a few short years later students saw a wrong on Tate Street and sought to make it right. During their protests to integrate Tate Street businesses in 1963, they were spat on and threatened. They stood firm when drivers yelled at them or when the white supremacists hovered nearby. What an unbelievably brave thing to do. And it made a difference.

Each magazine we put together takes on a life of its own. We've had issues that feel like summer to me. Or sing with the poetry of songwriters. Or contain the sepia tones of remembrance. This time, it's the powerful force of courage.

But bravery isn't always in the dramatic. Sometimes it's just in taking a leap of faith. Students, such as the ones in the Chilean exchange program, are charting new territory with a brand-new program, being the pioneers to make it work. Who knows what they will encounter? My hat is off to them.

And then there's Buddy Gist. What a powerful story. This man freely gave Miles Davis' trumpet to UNCG, even though he was destitute, or about to be. Why? Because he felt it was the right thing to do. And just as impressive are the UNCG music professors who are banding together to take care of him in his final days. Again, because it's the right thing to do.

Such amazing people. Each and every one. I feel bolstered by their stories. I applaud their fortitude, their commitment, their zeal. And it shows that we can all step out in faith and make a powerful difference, one person at a time.

Beth English '07 MALS, Editor
beth_english@uncg.edu

Reminder: Due to budget constraints, our summer issue of UNCG Magazine will be found only online. Look for it in late July. The print issue will return in the fall.

 

 

 

 

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Location: 1000 Spring Garden Street, Greensboro, NC 27403
Mailing Address: PO Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170
Telephone: 336.334.5000
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Last updated: Tuesday, 04 October 2011
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