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June 2009

Living legacies

At the end of Commencement, two women sounded the University Bell — a traditional ending that has been a part of university life since 1892. For the women, it was a fitting tribute.

Nancy Romefelt Mapes ’48 and her granddaughter Gillian Small ’09 are two of four generations in their family who have made friends, crammed for exams, trudged to class and in all other ways made the UNCG campus their home. Even though 60 years separated their time on campus, Small lived in her grandmother’s old residence hall and had classes in some of the same buildings.

New graduate Gillian Small ’09 rings the University Bell along with her grandmother, Nancy Romefelt Mapes ’48.

New graduate Gillian Small ’09 rings the University Bell along with her grandmother, Nancy Romefelt Mapes ’48.

The women are part of a legacy that extends also to Small’s mother, dad, aunt, great-grandmother and great-aunt. It made Small’s decision to come to UNCG easy. “I knew that if my mom and my grandma could do it, I could do it too!” she jokes.

With each year, the number of legacies on campus grows. At SOAR (Spartan Orientation, Advising and Registration), alumni parents now sit together for a meal and reminisce about their time at UNCG — where they lived, their majors, class years and even their favorite professors and hangouts.

“It just takes a question or two,” says Alumni Association President Jeff Colbert. “It’s amazing to watch them take off.”

Colbert knows first-hand what it’s like to watch your child attend your university. His daughter, Genny, is now a UNCG alumna.

In addition to the all-important lesson of letting go, it also was a lesson in looking at a familiar place through new eyes. “I had even more pride in my institution,” he says.

And he doesn’t plan for his daughter to be the last in his family to become a proud Spartan. Of his five grandchildren, all have stepped foot on this campus at least once. “I intend for some of them to come here,” he says, only half-joking.

Cathy Illman Sykes ’83 is experiencing that shift this year. Her son, Nate, will be a freshman in the fall.

UNCG was the only place he wanted to apply,” she says. “He’s heard me talk about it.”

Sykes found UNCG to be personable, with department heads teaching classes and faculty who were willing to go out of their way to help her succeed.

“It helps to know he’ll be going to a place that will be good for him.”

Are you part of a UNCG legacy? We’d like to hear from you. Contact the Alumni Relations Office at (336) 334-5696 or email





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