UNCW Celebrates 75 Years Like No Other

UNCW letters atop a building on campus

75 Seahawk Snippets

As UNCW celebrates its 75th anniversary, here are 75 bits of Seahawk history and lore that you may not know. These interesting details, arranged in no particular order, are intended to pique your interest in North Carolina’s coastal university. To learn more about UNCW, check out the University Archives at Randall Library. 

  1. On September 18, 1958, the Board of Trustees agreed to purchase land off NC Hwy 132 (now College Road) for Wilmington College's first campus. The institution was located in the Isaac Bear Building near downtown Wilmington until the College Road campus became the permanent home for the college and eventually the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The board considered two other possible sites – one is now home to Long Leaf Park and the other a municipal golf course. 

  2. The Upperman African American Cultural Center celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020. The center is named in honor of Dr. Leroy Upperman, a prominent Wilmington physician known for his love of education and desire to provide opportunities for the advancement of African American students. It is located on the second floor of the Fisher Student Union and has been a gathering place for the UNCW Black community since its installation. 

  3. Centro Hispano worked with the UNCW Office of Admissions to conduct the first bilingual (Spanish) campus tour on Oct. 16, 2015. Centro Hispano was established in 2005 under the leadership of faculty member Antonio Puente, who served as the first director.

  4. The cocktail served at a March 2022 gala to celebrate Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW, aptly named “The Seahawk,” included bourbon, grapefruit juice and a syrup made of honey collected by the UNCW beekeepers. UNCW was named an affiliate of Bee Campus USA in 2021.

  5. Chancellor Aswani K. Volety served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from July 2014-August 2019 and executive director of the UNCW Center for Marine Science from May 2018-August 2019. He returned to the institution on July 1, 2022, as its seventh chancellor.

  6. Actor/comedian Will Ferrell is the nephew of a retired UNCW professor. A name, you ask? We are not at liberty to say.

  7. UNCW held its first Midnight Madness event in 1990, the annual preseason gathering signaling the start of basketball season. Over the years, the official event title changed from "Midnight" to "Midnite."

  8. In 2019, UNCW’s Randall Library installed the first solar umbrellas on campus. In addition to being completely solar-powered, the umbrellas allow users to charge their devices via a USB connection.

  9. A coffeehouse opened in Hinton James Hall in 1975. It was known as "the coffeehouse" or the "the pub" (beer was BYOB) until it was officially christened the "Good Wood Tavern” following a student contest. The winning entry noted “the wall paneling was made from some good wood.” The beloved hangout closed in 1982 with the opening of the University Union.

  10. Alderman Hall served as the set for Capeside Hall on “Dawson’s Creek.” The hit TV series also filmed at Randall Library, Hanover Gym and other campus locations during its five-year run.

  11. On September 27, 1948, a group of Wilmington College students published the inaugural edition of The Seahawk in the form of a four-page mimeographed newspaper. In 1958, it became a monthly publication. The Seahawk remains UNCW’s official student newspaper to this day and is published exclusively online. 

  12. Retired UNCW Professor of English Richard Veit wasn’t a contestant on the game show “Jeopardy!,” but part of a question. On Dec. 22, 1994, the late host Alex Trebek read the following clue: "In ‘Discovering English Grammar,’ Richard Veit says it's OK to sometimes split these.” The correct response: "What is an infinitive?”

  13. What do writers Maya Angelou, Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike; influencers Martha Stewart and Magic Johnson; and community service ambassador Mother Teresa have in common? They’ve all visited the UNCW campus!  

  14. Two sea squirt species are named in honor of UNCW faculty members and their lab. P. lopezlegentilae recognizes biology and marine biology’s Susanna López-Legentil for her work in ascidian genetics and systematics. P. imesa was named in honor of the Integrated Molecular Ecology of Sponges and Ascidians Lab, led by López-Legentil and Patrick Erwin, to acknowledge contributions to ascidian molecular ecology. 

  15. Former UNCW Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli is a native of Brazil. At his installation ceremony, faculty member Clyde Edgerton played a song composed to the tune of “Girl from Ipanema” on a harmonica. At the last commencement ceremony he presided over as chancellor, the Sunset Samba Project played Brazilian music in Dr. Sartarelli’s honor.

  16. A sapling from one of the gingko trees that survived the bombing of Hiroshima was planted outside Morton Hall in 2017. The tree is a gift of the Green Legacy Hiroshima Initiative and serves as a symbol of life, hope and peace. 

  17. UNCW became a residential campus in 1971 with the opening of Galloway Hall. The co-ed residence hall housed 400 students and was the first air-conditioned one in the state. 

  18. On April 23, 1970, UNCW celebrated “Wilmington Pollution Day” in conjunction with the first Earth Day. 

  19. William J. ("Bill") Brooks (1922-2010) is the sole representative of UNCW in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. He retired in 1991 following a 40-year career garnered with many honors for his success as athletics director and coach. He is the namesake for Brooks Field, where the Seahawks play baseball.

  20. In 2003, Rosemary DePaolo became UNCW’s third chancellor and the first woman to hold the position. The building previously known as Westside Hall was renamed in her honor at the conclusion of her tenure in 2011. 

  21. UNCW received its first patent in 1992 for a streamlined bacterial test developed by biology and marine biology professor Ronald Sizemore and Jerra Caldwell ’86.

  22. The UNCW LGBTQIA Resource Office opened in 2010. In 2020, the office was renamed the Mohin-Scholz LGBTQIA Resource Center, in honor of a major gift commitment from alumnus John Scholz ’84 and his spouse, Dr. Anil Mohin.

  23. After 10 years of planning, the UNCW Center for Marine Science opened in 2000. Two years later, UNCW established its first doctoral program in marine biology. David L. Meyer was the first to receive a Ph.D. in the subject on May 13, 2006. UNCW now offers six doctoral degrees in areas that serve state needs.

  24. Though teal is its trademark, UNCW joined landmarks and buildings across the world as part of Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative on March 17, 2021. The Office of International Programs partnered with other campus units to pose Sammy Seahawk with Study Abroad Ambassadors in front of the Burney Center fountain, which glowed green in honor of the occasion.

  25. UNCW Chancellor Emeritus James Leutze served as chancellor from 1990-2003. A noted war historian, he created the international affairs program, “Globe Watch,” which aired for 15 years on public television networks nationally and internationally.

  26. UNCW's motto, Discere Aude (Dare to Learn), was coined by William Madison Randall (1899-1984). He served as dean of Wilmington College before assuming the role of president. Renowned in the field of library science, UNCW’s library is named in his honor.

  27. Since 1993, the Watson College of Education has celebrated service to the youth of North Carolina with the Razor Walker Awards. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and First Lady Kristin; UNCW Chancellor Emeritus James R. Leutze; retired New Hanover County Schools educator and administrator Bertha Boykin Todd; The Ability Garden of New Hanover County Arboretum and WHAT of Coastal Horizons Center, Inc. are among those honored for "walking the razor's edge" for the state’s children.

  28. The jerseys of Lady Seahawk greats Gwen Austin (number 23) and Sheila Boles '77 (number 25) are retired. Men's basketball icons Devontae Cacok '19 (number 15), John Goldsberry '06 (number 3), Brett Blizzard '03 (number 11), Bill Mayew ’97, ‘98M (number 35) and Brian Rowsom (number 25) all had their jerseys raised to the rafters of Trask Coliseum.

  29. Departmental Honors began in 1965, allowing seniors to undertake a yearlong thesis project and graduate “with honors” in their major. In 1994, the Honors Scholars Program was initiated, allowing students to take part in a four-year curriculum and graduate with university honors. In 2011, the program was renamed Honors College in recognition of its growth and success.

  30. The Wise House at 1713 Market Street became the official home of the UNCW Alumni Association in May 1994. Philanthropist Jessie Kenan Wise lived there until her death at age 98 in 1968. The home was then deeded to UNCW.

  31. Dargan Frierson was hired as the associate director for academic computing services in the Office of Information Systems in September 1986. One of his first assignments was to implement the university's first microcomputer laboratory. The lab opened in King Hall in December 1986. The space contained 10 IBM computers, five IBM Proprinter XL printers and one Apple Macintosh Plus microcomputer with Imagewriter II printer.  

  32. In 1961, civil rights activist and local physician Hubert A. Eaton entered into a handshake agreement with then Wilmington College President John Hoggard to integrate the college. The following year, Marshall Collins and Ernest Fullwood became the first Black students to enroll. Fullwood is the first Black student to graduate from Wilmington College (June 12, 1966). Eaton was sworn in as the first Black chairman of the UNCW Board of Trustees on July 15, 1981.

  33. Two Seahawk sculptures adorn UNCW’s main campus. The first was installed in 2009 in front of Hoggard Hall at Ike Belk Plaza. Irwin "Ike" Belk commissioned the piece as a personal gift to the university. The second, commissioned by Housing and Residence Life, was installed outside of Pelican and Sandpiper Hall in 2020. Both were designed and created by Wilmington metal sculptor Dumay Gorham. His handiwork is also on display at the Center for Marine Science.

  34. UNCW Biology Professor Brian Arbogast and a team of researchers discovered a new flying squirrel species. In 2017, the research team unveiled “Humboldt’s flying squirrel” and the rigorous journey of exploration that led to its rediscovery in a scientific paper, “Genetic Data Reveal a Cryptic Species of New World Flying Squirrel: Glaucomys oregonesis."

  35. The Cameron School of Business hosted the first Business Week Feb. 7-8, 1983. The impact of tourism in Wilmington, commercial banking in a deregulated environment, management problems in the food service industry and utility economics were among the topics discussed. Since then, thousands of students have enjoyed connecting with alumni and business leaders during Business Week.

  36. Clyde Edgerton, a distinguished professor of creative writing at UNCW, was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2017, along with award-winning mystery novel writer Margaret Maron and Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sandburg. A faculty member at UNCW since 1998, Edgerton is a New York Times bestselling author, artist, musician and pilot.

  37. UNCW is out of this world! SeaHawk-1, a nanosatellite, was launched into orbit on Dec. 3, 2018. Weighing just 11 pounds, it takes high-resolution images of the ocean, allowing scientists to closely monitor coastal features.  John Morrison, a retired professor in UNCW's Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography, led the satellite program since its inception. UNCW is the first UNC System school to launch a nanosatellite.

  38. Founded in 1901, the James Walker Hospital School of Nursing was once one of the largest nursing schools in North Carolina. When James Walker Hospital closed and New Hanover Hospital opened, faculty and students transferred to Wilmington College for the associate degree in nursing program. In 1984, the UNCW Bachelor of Science in Nursing program was established.

  39. Trask Coliseum, the cornerstone of UNCW’s athletic programs, is home of the basketball teams, convocation, commencement and other campus and community events. The facility seats 5,200 fans and is named for benefactor and former Wilmington College trustee, Raiford G. Trask. 

  40. “An Evening With One Tree Hill,” a farewell event for CW’s popular series, was held on Oct. 30, 2012, in Beckwith Recital Hall. The event sold out in five minutes. As cast members walked on the stage the UNCW band played the show’s theme song, “I Don’t Want to Be” by Gavin Degraw. The show filmed in numerous locations around campus during its nine seasons.

  41. “Sammy C. Hawk” became the official moniker of the UNCW mascot in 2004 following a student contest. Then UNCW junior Kristin A. Jorgensen submitted the winning name. Runners up included “Slammin’ Sammy the Seahawk,” “Caesar the Seahawk” and  “Breezer.” 

  42. The 50-foot clock tower on Campus Commons was a gift from the Class of 2000. It chimes UNCW’s fight song and alma mater at noon and 5 p.m. each day.

  43. For nearly 30 years, UNCW students “choose to ooze,” during Oozeball, the Student Ambassador sponsored single-elimination, regulation mud-volleyball tournament. 

  44. While Sammy is the official UNCW mascot, the geese who live on campus are quite popular. Follow @geeseofuncw on Instagram for cute snaps and bird-related puns.

  45. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, The Seahawk became “The Seacrock” on April Fool's Day. “National Enquirer Buys 'The Seahawk',” “ROTC Takes Over UNCW” and “School Colors to Change” were some of the bogus headlines that ran in the special editions. 

  46. The Office of International Programs was established in 1989. In fall 1990, UNCW had 22 international students enrolled. In fall 2021, UNCW had 458 international students enrolled with 84 countries represented. It is now known as the Office of Global Partnerships and International Education.

  47. Two books have been published that chronicle the university’s history: From These Beginnings; Wilmington College, 1946-1969 by J. Marshall Crews and Giving Flight to Imagination: 70 Years of Excellence by Thomas R. Hart.

  48. Hawkstream Radio is UNCW's student-run podcast studio. Founded in 2007 as a streaming radio station, Hawkstream is currently managed by TealTV, UNCW's student-run TV news and entertainment outlet.

  49. D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy was opened by UNCW in July 2018. The first K-8 lab school in North Carolina and first year-round K-8 public school in Wilmington, NC, D.C. Virgo’s curriculum focuses on inquiry-based learning, community engagement and the importance of literacy. The school offers a family-engaged learning environment to support the academic, social and emotional growth of students, as well as access to university resources. Virgo serves almost 200 students at its downtown Wilmington campus.

  50. For 15 years students have lined up hours in advance to taste turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and pies during Wagsgiving. Taking place at Wagoner Dining Hall, the annual campus feast is an early Thanksgiving dinner for thousands of students. 

  51. In 1973, the book collection of UNCW’s William M. Randall Library reached 100,000 volumes. To celebrate, the library acquired a first edition Huck Finn by Mark Twain (published in 1885), which is housed in Special Collections. The library currently houses 900,779 titles in books and e-books; 103,683 titles in print and digital serials and 228,577 items in physical and digital media.

  52. When former First Lady Laura Bush visited campus in 2004, then UNCW chancellor Rosemary DePaolo gifted her a copy of history professor David’s La Vere's book The Texas Indians.

  53. Former UNCW basketball standout Devontae Cacok '19 became the first Seahawk to be part of an NBA championship team in 2020 as a player for the Los Angeles Lakers.

  54. In 2016, UNCW became the first university in the UNC system to implement a bike share program.

  55. UNCW doesn’t have a football team, but it did have a football club in the late 70s/early 80s and enjoyed big wins against clubs from Appalachian State and NC State.

  56. UNCW’s yearbook, “The Fledgling,” was printed annually from 1950 until 1989 (except for 1956 and 1988). The yearbook provided glimpses into campus athletics, clubs, fashion and more.

  57. The commemorative event “9/11: Reflecting on a Decade” was held on September 9, 2011. More than 1,500 UNCW students, faculty and staff came together on Hoggard lawn to create a representation of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in remembrance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The participants held up the names of the 2,977 victims of the 9/11 attacks.

  58. On February 7, 1998, UNCW unearthed its time capsule. The Collegiate Civitan Club buried the time capsule on June 2, 1968, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Wilmington College, which coincided with the school becoming a 4-year institution. The canister held microfilmed information about campus life in 1968, the history of the first 20 years of Wilmington College and honored retiring President William Randall and mathematics professor Adrian Hurst.

  59. In 2016, UNCW researcher and professor Steve Emslie discovered an abandoned supercolony of Adélie penguins in Antarctica. He has traveled to the continent to study climate change and penguin paleohistory more than a dozen times.

  60. The first Albert Schweitzer International Prizes awards ceremony was held on Oct. 23, 1975, at UNCW. The prizes were founded to honor the memory of philosopher, physician, clergyman and Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer. The awardees in attendance were Mother Teresa of Calcutta in the humanities; Gian Carlo Menotti, music; and Theodor Binder, medicine.

  61. In fall 2012, UNCW had 11,178 applicants for first-year admission and admitted 6,061. In fall 2021, UNCW had 15,792 applicants for first-year admission and admitted 10,736.

  62. In 1974, the Kresge Foundation awarded UNCW $75,000 for the construction of a greenhouse facility. The 2,250-square-foot Kresge Greenhouse provides facilities for faculty and student research projects and laboratory exercises and is maintained by the Department of Biology and Marine Biology.

  63. Wilmington native and artist Claude Howell (1915-97) founded and chaired Wilmington College’s Art Department. His paintings are in Randall Library, the Cultural Arts Building and a collection of illustrated holiday cards housed in Special Collections.

  64. From the 1958 Wilmington College Student Handbook: “All cars parked on the College grounds must carry a College tag for identification purposes. These tags may be procured from the Bursar at the time of registration. A charge of 25 cents is made for each tag, which will be returned upon application when the student leaves the College and returns the tag in usable condition.”

  65. The original campus cafeteria was located in what is now DePaolo Hall.

  66. On Sept. 15, 1959, the UNCW Board of Trustees approved modified Georgian architecture for campus buildings.

  67. The SGA passed the “Teal Declaration,” establishing teal as UNCW’s official color, on March 26, 2009. Many Seahawks show their spirit by wearing teal on Tuesdays.

  68. On September 4, 1947, Wilmington College opened its doors to 238 students, seventy-five percent of whom were veterans. In 2020, nearly 73 years later, UNCW named its newest academic building Veterans Hall in continued support of those who serve. The 145,000-square-foot facility was supported through the successful passage of the Connect NC Bond in 2016.

  69. Mattie Gore Holmes, a local teacher, was the first to enroll in a UNCW graduate degree program. She enrolled in 1978 and earned an M.Ed. in 1980.  

  70. UNCW historic enrollment by the decades: 1950: 176; 1960: 609; 1970: 1,772; 1980: 4,696; 1990: 6,978; 2000: 9,885; 2010: 13,071; 2020: 17,915.

  71. UNCW has 100,000 alumni as of May 2022. Each UNCW graduate is an automatic member of the UNCW Alumni Association and there are no dues or fees to join. The Alumni Association has 12 chapters and groups and awards 20 scholarships to students annually.

  72. Chancellors Walk, a 2,416-feet walkway between Randall Library and Wagoner Hall, was completed in 2000.

  73. The cost of tuition in 1947 for one semester (18 weeks) was $90. The requirement for admission was the satisfactory completion of a four-year course in an accredited high school.

  74. The 10-acre Herbert Bluethenthal Memorial Wildflower Preserve honors the memory of Wilmington businessman Herbert Bluethenthal. There are multiple trails lined with cypress, pine, red maple and sweetgum trees. The Venus Flytrap and Pitcher Plants, two species of carnivorous plants native to North Carolina, are present in the natural area that provides opportunities for study and leisure.

  75. You might be a Seahawk if you've owned a T-shirt emblazoned with "UNC by the Sea," "Feel My Teal!," "UNCW Football Undefeated Since 1947" or "Hawk Yeah!"
-- Compiled by Office of University Relations’ Caroline Cropp ’99 ’06M, who has spent 25 of UNCW’s 75 years on campus as a student, alumna and staff member.  

* This is not a comprehensive history of Wilmington College or UNCW. Facts were collected from University Archives, news sources and published books.