As the University of North Carolina at Asheville celebrates eighty years of excellence in higher education, the campus community welcomes new challenges and greater successes as one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges. From its beginnings as Buncombe County Junior College, where 86 students enrolled in 1927 to further their educations beyond high school, the University has valued liberal arts ideals and community engagement. Its special commitment to student learning and undergraduate education was reaffirmed when it joined the University of North Carolina system in 1969 as the University of North Carolina at Asheville. The University maintains its liberal arts imperative, as the designated undergraduate liberal arts University of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system.
Active Citizens Together (ACT) in Asheville Day
Each year the freshman class sponsors this communitywide service project in September to show the important role service plays in a liberal arts education. Along with faculty and staff guides, students meet on campus and take buses to day-care centers, homeless shelters, nonprofit agencies and anywhere they can lend a hand, returning for a cookout together. Often these initial projects become long-term commitments while students pursue their UNC Asheville educations.
In 2000 the university community set about the task of writing a new Alma Mater—the official anthem of UNC Asheville, sung at all ceremonial events—to replace the one from the 1960s. In Latin, alma mater means “nourishing mother,” and it also refers to the school one attended.
Hail Our Alma Mater,
Learning be your watchword,
Greatness be your way.
High upon the mountains,
In the Land of Sky,
Stands our Alma Mater,
Lift your voices high.
Noble Alma Mater,
Hear our words of praise.
May we love and honor you,
Until the end of days.
(Dedicated Oct. 5, 2001, music by Jesse Padgett, words by UNC Asheville faculty, staff, students and alumni)
UNC Asheville alumni, faculty and staff welcome new and returning students in August by helping them move into the residence halls.
Held the first Friday night of the new academic year (in August) in front of Highsmith University Union, the Block Party is a night of great food, games, rides and fun for the campus community. And it’s a good time for all students to reconnect and meet new friends.
For more than three decades, the irises blooming in May on Ramsey Library Terrace have been harbingers of spring and Commencement.
Chancellor’s Ice Cream Social
Each year on the first day of classes in August, the chancellor invites the campus for ice cream on the Quad to celebrate the new academic year. Faculty and staff join students for this fun-filled event that’s always a great way to beat the end-of-summer heat.
At this formal academic ceremony held in May and December, students receive their baccalaureate or master’s degrees, the chancellor confers honorary degrees, and the university presents the top faculty and student awards of the year. Among them is the Manly Wright Award to the senior deemed highest in scholarship, who receives his or her diploma on a silver platter and is last in line to graduate.
The university welcomes new students at convocation in August, the official ceremony marking the start of the academic year. Students meet in front of Justice Athletics Center at the statue of Rocky, the UNC Asheville mascot, and walk to the university quadrangle steps. On the way, they pat Rocky’s head for good luck and a successful academic career. Convocation introduces students to academic ceremony and tradition.
Donning of the Stoles
At this special ceremony in May for students of color, graduates are presented a kente-cloth stole by a mentor such as a parent, professor, staff member or fellow classmate, which is worn with the cap and gown at commencement.
The UNC Asheville version of this nationwide environmental awareness day in April is led by students who organize information fairs, speakers and activities that promote recycling, walking and riding bicycles and public transportation, river and roadside trash cleanups and other ways to protect the environment.
During exam weeks, faculty and staff serve up a big breakfast for weary students in need of a study break and a good, hearty—and free—meal. Held late at night in the Dining Hall, it’s a popular social event featuring good food, friendly conversation and the ever-popular karaoke.
First-Year Student Tree Planting
During Summit orientation in August, the freshman class plants a tree on campus. The tree represents their class year and is a symbol of the growth that each new student will experience while at UNC Asheville.
Initiated in the fall of 1997, Founders Day celebrates UNC Asheville’s beginning in September 1927 as Buncombe County Junior College and its entrance into the University of North Carolina system in 1969. It features speakers and special events, dedications and award presentations.
Held each fall and spring semester, Greenfest is a collection of events, programs and lectures celebrating environmental awareness and campus beautification. Highlights include tree plantings and trail maintenance.
A weeklong celebration in February, Homecoming centers around Bulldog basketball and includes alumni reunions, a dance, parade and festivities that celebrate UNC Asheville. Homecoming is not just for alumni but also for current students, who help plan special events and join the fun.
Jammin’ at the Justice
Music, special events and lots of free stuff at Jammin’ at the Justice help kick off basketball season in October and show support for the UNC Asheville Bulldogs!
Originally known as Rockmont for the campground where it was held, Lawn Party on the Quad offers food, rides, games, comedians, concerts and other entertainment to celebrate the end of the academic year. It’s the last hurrah before final exams in the spring.
A ceremonial staff carried at official academic ceremonies, the mace dates to medieval times and symbolizes authority. The Distinguished Teacher of the Year leads the academic procession carrying the mace, which was created by Jennifer Costa, Class of 1996, and is a gift of the Class of 2001.
Rocky (the Bulldog)
Since the 1930s when the first teams competed, the Bulldog has been the mascot. He’s been called Puck, Chug-A-Lug and Winston. The name Rocky was chosen in a 1995 naming contest. The statue outside Justice Center, a gift of the Class of 1998, was sculpted by Matt West, Class of 2000. Tradition holds that students should pat Rocky’s head when they arrive as freshmen, for good luck before an exam, and when they graduate.
A modified version of the city of Asheville seal, created by local engraver Harry Sage in the 1930s, the UNC Asheville seal depicts Mount Pisgah, the Latin phrase Levo oculos meos in montes (“I lift up my eyes to the mountains”), the name of the university and date of its founding. It symbolizes our mountain setting and historical link with the region.
Turning of the Maples
When the maple trees that line the sidewalks of the Quad turn brilliant colors in mid-October, the university community gathers to celebrate autumn in the mountains with cider, cookies, conversation and fun. Nearly two dozen beautiful trees put on a dazzling display of red, orange and yellow leaves as the air becomes crisp and cool, signaling a new season and a new academic year at the university.
This Commencement tradition began with the Class of 2007. As seniors march onto the quad, the bell is rung five times for UNC Asheville and its four predecessor colleges, and 29 times at the recessional, to honor the 29 members of the Class of 1929 who were the school’s first graduates. The bell is also rung on Founders Day.