Noteworthy Firsts

Noteworthy Firsts

Some students may receive grants named after “Noteworthy Firsts” at Carolina who are trailblazing figures in University history.



Irene Dillard Elliott

Among the first women to earn doctorate degrees at Carolina, Elliott was also the first woman to earn a full professorship and deanship at the University of South Carolina. After retiring in 1935, she returned to USC in 1946 to teach 18 more years when the school experienced a shortage of English professors following World War II.


Anna Forbes Liddell

Among the first women to earn doctorate degrees at Carolina, the late Liddell was active in the suffrage movement in North Carolina as a young woman. In 1926, she began teaching at what is now Florida State University, where she chaired the department of philosophy and religion before retiring in 1962.


Richard J. Epps, Jr.

The first black student elected student body president in 1972, the late Epps served as congressional aide, assistant director of admissions at UNC-Chapel Hill and senior trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division. At Carolina, he served on the Board of Visitors, the General Alumni Association’s Board of Directors and helped establish what is now the annual Black Alumni Reunion.


W. Horace Carter

While at Carolina, Carter was the editor of The Tar Heel student newspaper. In 1946, he founded The Tribune in Tabor City, N.C. As a groundbreaking journalist in the 1950s, Carter campaigned against the Ku Klux Klan, resulting in more than 100 convictions of Klansmen. In 1953, Carter and The Tribune won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for meritorious public service.



Lenoir Chambers

Chambers was one of the first three Carolina alumni, along with Horace Cater and Vermont Royster, to receive the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. The late Chambers was honored for his editorials, which opposed massive resistance to school desegregation.


Vermont C. Royster

A former editor of The Daily Tar Heel, the late Royster is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner in journalism for his work at the Wall Street Journal, where he held many positions including editor of the editorial page and editor. His work also earned him the Presidential Medal of Honor in 1986. After retiring, Royster returned to Carolina as the Kenan Professor of Journalism and Public Affairs.


William Alexander Darity, Sr.

In 1964, the late Darity became the first black student to earn a doctorate from Carolina. He was founding dean of the School of Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an emeritus professor. Darity served Carolina as a member of the Board of Trustees from 1985 to 1991 during a period that included board debate about race and inclusion issues.



John L. Brandon

Among the first undergraduate students to integrate UNC-Chapel Hill, Brandon served in the Navy and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from the University of Houston. He later became a senior research chemist at Dow Chemical Co.


Genevieve Lowry Cole

A member of the Lumbee tribe, Cole was the first female American Indian student to graduate from Carolina. After earning a degree in medical technology, she worked in clinical labs at the University of California Medical Center and later returned to Carolina for her master’s degree in public health. She went on to a successful career as a microbiologist working at both Duke and N.C. State universities.


LeRoy B. Frasier, Jr.

Among the first undergraduate students to integrate UNC-Chapel Hill, LeRoy Frasier earned a bachelor’s degree from N.C. Central University and a master’s degree from New York University. He served in the Peace Corps and taught English as a second language in Africa and the U.S., including time at Hillside High School in Durham.


Patricia Dallas Horoho

A 1982 Carolina nursing graduate, Horoho became the 43rd Surgeon General of the U.S. Army, the first nurse and first woman to hold the position. The American Red Cross recognized her as a “nurse hero” and she was chosen as the U.S.O.’s 2009 Woman of the Year. A retired lieutenant general, she received the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit.


Ralph K. Frasier

Among the first undergraduate students to integrate UNC-Chapel Hill, Ralph Frasier graduated from N.C. Central University’s law school with honors, formed the legal department at Wachovia Bank & Trust in Winston-Salem & worked as general counsel for Huntington Bancshares Inc. in Ohio. He served on the boards of non-profit organizations dedicated to higher education and poverty.


Santiago Gangotena

Gangotena earned his doctorate in physics from Carolina in 1977. Ten years later, he founded the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), the first private, liberal arts University in Ecuador. USFQ and Carolina are partners on a joint research and education initiative focused on understanding and preserving the Galapagos Islands.


Hortense K. McClinton

McClinton was the first black professor hired at Carolina. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, she came to Chapel Hill in 1966 and spent almost 20 years in the School of Social Work, where she created and taught a course on institutional racism.


Karen L. Parker

The first black woman undergraduate at Carolina, Parker chronicled her years as a student, including descriptions of her experiences during the civil rights movement. She donated that diary to Wilson Library’s Southern Historical Collection in 2006. Parker went on to a successful career in journalism, working for The Grand Rapids Press, The Los Angeles Times, & The Winston-Salem Journal.


Charles T. Scott

Carolina’s first black scholarship athlete, Scott’s recruitment by Dean Smith was considered a turning point in race relations in North Carolina. Not only was Scott pivotal in helping Smith integrate Carolina and the Chapel Hill community, he also led the Tar Heels to two ACC Tournament titles and two Final Fours. Scott went on to a 10-year professional career in the American Basketball Association and NBA, where he was a five time All-Star.


Sallie Walker Stockard

The first woman to graduate from Carolina, the late Stockard earned her bachelor’s degree in 1898, followed by a master’s degree in 1900. A historian, author and advocate for equal educational opportunities for women, she wrote histories of Guilford and Alamance counties in the Triad region of North Carolina that are still in print.


Henry Owl

The late Owl was a Cherokee from the Qualla Boundary and the first American Indian admitted to Carolina. After earning a master’s degree in history in 1929, he was twice denied the opportunity to vote. Owl went on to champion the rights of the Cherokee, testifying before Congress and securing U.S. citizenship for the people of the Eastern Band.



Johnston Blakely

Orphaned at 16, shortly after entering Carolina in 1796, Blakely was the first alumnus to give his life in military service to the United States. While serving as a U.S. Army captain during the War of 1812, he disappeared in action and is presumed to have died in 1814.


Karen Leslie Stevenson

The first black woman awarded the Morehead Scholarship, Stevenson was also a decorated student-athlete, setting 14 school track records and twice wining the Jim Tatum Award for athletic and academic leadership. She became the first black woman selected as a Rhodes Scholar. After earning a master’s in European History at Oxford, Stevenson received a J.D. from Stanford and became a civil litigator in California.


Patricia Wallace

In 1985, Wallace became the first woman elected student body president at Carolina. She earned a doctorate in medieval studies at Cornell University and taught at Florida International University before earning a law degree from University of Miami. Wallace became a First Amendment attorney, defending the right of free speech and now prosecutes violations of privacy claims on behalf of women.

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