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Black & White photo of Alderman Hall in 1961

History & Traditions

Key Dates

1949 Fourteen students received their diplomas during the first Wilmington College graduation ceremony.
1958 New Hanover County voted to place the college under the Community College Act of the State of North Carolina, making it a part of the state system of higher education.
1961 Ground was broken for the campus on College Road, and 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.
1962 Marshall Collins and Ernest Fullwood become the first Black students to enroll. Fullwood, who graduated June 12, 1966, went on to become a senior resident Superior Court judge.
1977 The Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina authorized UNCW to offer its first graduate programs at the master's level.
1985 The Board of Governors elevated UNCW to a Comprehensive Level I University.
1992 UNCW received its first patent, for a streamlined bacterial test developed by a biology and marine biology professor and his undergraduate student.
2000 The Center for Marine Science building opened at the Myrtle Grove Campus, giving UNCW’s marine-related programs direct access to coastal waters and space for laboratories and classrooms.
2002 UNCW established its first doctoral program, in marine biology.
2018 UNCW was elevated to the category “Doctoral Universities: High Research Activity” in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
Photo of John T. Hoggard

Leading The Way

Since its founding in 1947, UNCW has been fortunate to have leaders who recognized the institution’s potential and worked relentlessly to grow, improve and strengthen its position in the UNC System.

University Traditions

Carried by the chief faculty marshal at commencement and convocation, the mace incorporates elements and materials important to the history of our university and region.

The seal features a triangle as a reference to our roots and a scroll for a diploma-issuing university encircled by long leaf pine boughs. UNCW's unique motto, Discere Aude, was created by Wilmington College President William Madison Randall. It has been defined as both "Dare to learn" and "In order to discover the truth firsthand, be courageous!"

The nickname "Seahawk" was selected in 1947 because of the popularity of the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks who were known for their excellent athletic teams at the time and because of Wilmington College's proximity to the water.

The original school colors of kelly green and yellow were chosen in 1947 to represent the color of the ocean (green) and the nearby sandy beaches (gold). When a new athletic logo was introduced in 1992, navy was added as a secondary color. In 2009, the Student Government Association officially recognized teal as the university’s primary color. “Teal Tuesday” has become a tradition on campus when students, faculty and staff proudly display their school color.

A project of the Student Government Association, the 50-foot clock tower on the Campus Commons was dedicated and sounded for the first time at the senior celebration on May 12, 2000.

Each August, nearly 2,000 volunteers help freshmen move into residence halls as part of a longstanding UNCWelcome tradition. In a matter of minutes, volunteers in teal cheer for families as they pull up to residence halls, hurry to their vehicles and move the new students into their residence hall rooms.

Decked out in teal T-shirts, incoming freshmen kick off each new academic year by unveiling their class flag, gathering for their traditional class photo and making the trek to Trask Coliseum for the formal convocation ceremony.

Seahawks from around the world paint the town teal during Homecoming, which includes the Alumni Champagne Brunch, Homecoming TEALgate and men’s basketball game, as well as dozens of other events for the whole family. The Homecoming king and queen are announced at halftime of the men's basketball game, and the alumni award winners are recognized.