University of North Carolina System celebrates its 40th anniversary

In 1971, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation that created the University of North Carolina System, encompassing all of the state-supported institutions of higher learning in North Carolina.

Today, the UNC System includes Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, North Carolina State University, UNC-Asheville, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Pembroke, UNC School of the Arts, Western Carolina University, and Winston-Salem State University.

The UNC System can trace its origins to the Great Depression.  Looking for cost savings, the North Carolina General Assembly created the Consolidated University of North Carolina in 1931, consisting of the campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering (now North Carolina State University), and the North Carolina College for Women (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro), under the leadership of one board and one president.  Frank Porter Graham served as the first president of the Consolidated University.   In 1969, UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte, and UNC-Wilmington were added.

In 1956, William C. Friday became the president of the Consolidated University, later the UNC System, serving until 1986.  Subsequent presidents of the UNC System have been C. D. Spangler, Jr. (1986-1997), Molly C. Broad (1997-2006), Erskine Bowles (2006-2011), and, currently, Thomas W. Ross (2011- ).

On November 9, 2011, these five presidents participated on a panel, “Evening with Five Presidents” to discuss the history of the UNC System.  The event was held to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the UNC System.  The Daily Tar Heel published an article on the event on November 10, 2011: ystem_bday

The University Archives and Records Management Services serves as the official archival repository and provides records management support for the major administrative offices of the UNC System.  The records from the tenures of Presidents Friday, Spangler, and Broad are available for research in Wilson Library as are the records of other administrators and units of the UNC system.

Here are links to the finding aids of the:

William C. Friday records:

C. D. Spangler, Jr., records:

For more information about the history of the UNC System over the last forty years, please see:

King, Arnold K., The Multicampus University of North Carolina Comes of Age, 1956-1986. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

Link, William A. William Friday: Power, Purpose and Higher Education, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.