UNCW Bestows Honorary Degree Upon Accomplished Business Leader, Higher Education Advocate Hannah Dawson Gage

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Broadcasting executive and higher education advocate Hannah Dawson Gage has been presented with an honorary doctorate by the University of North Carolina Wilmington during its 95th commencement exercises, the university announced today.

“UNCW is proud to award Hannah Dawson Gage with the degree Doctor of Humanities in recognition of her numerous achievements and contributions, particularly in the arena of higher education,” Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli said. “Her civic leadership and commitment to our university, as well as the UNC System, continue to inspire us to pursue excellence in everything we do.”

UNC System President Margaret Spellings, who attended the commencement ceremony where Gage received the honorary degree, said: “Hannah has been widely respected as a voice for the greater good of this state and the university. Her patient, cheerful diplomacy has allowed her to work with everybody who has a stake in this university, and that’s an ability to be celebrated.”

Gage’s formal service to UNCW began when she was appointed to the Board of Trustees in 1993. During her eight-year tenure, including a year as chair, she was instrumental in securing funds for UNCW’s marine science center.

In 2001, she was appointed to the UNC Board of Governors, serving for 12 years, including two terms as the first woman elected chair of the board. She also served a four-year emeritus term, which ended in June 2017. As chair, she sought to design a public university system that is sustainable and affordable, emphasizing operational effectiveness and better graduation rates.

“It is such a thrill to be honored this way. I have been advocating for UNCW and the UNC System for nearly a quarter of a century. To be recognized for work that is such a labor of love for me is wonderful, and so very meaningful to me," Gage said.

Gage, a 1975 graduate of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism, excelled in radio management with Cape Fear Broadcasting, a family business. She broke new ground in southeastern North Carolina by establishing the first FM contemporary radio station to focus on female listeners. She also started the area’s first news talk radio station and later established the area’s first FM station to focus on African American listeners. For her pioneering work, Gage received the American Advertising Federation’s Silver Medal in 1992 for contributions to the advertising and marketing industry. She was inducted into the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2009.

In 2012, she received The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state's highest honor for service from the governor. A 2013 resolution by the UNC System honoring Gage cites her “dynamic and timely leadership, supported by warmth and good humor, and great love of and dedication to the university and to the State of North Carolina.” In 2016, she was honored by the UNCW Watson College of Education with a Razor Walker Award for her stalwart support of public higher education.

UNCW Presents Honorary Degree to Hannah Dawson Gage

(L-R): Wendy F. Murphy '93, UNC Board of Governors; Provost Marilyn Sheerer; Hannah Dawson Gage; Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli; UNC System President Margaret Spellings


The University of North Carolina Wilmington, the state's coastal university, is dedicated to learning through the integration of teaching and mentoring with research and service. Guided by our Strategic Plan, the university is committed to nurturing a campus culture that reflects its values of diversity and globalization, ethics and integrity, and excellence and innovation. A public institution with nearly 17,000 students, the university is focused on supporting and enhancing the student-centered learning experience that has been a hallmark since its founding in 1947. UNCW offers an array of programs at the baccalaureate and master’s levels, and doctoral programs in marine biology, educational leadership, psychology and nursing practice.