UNCG celebrates 125 years

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- No one had any idea what it would become.

But when the North Carolina legislature finally took the advice of Charles Duncan McIver and began a state “normal” college in Greensboro in 1892, it was the beginning of something very big.

“Across the country, most people were not thinking about the professionalization of teaching and McIver was a leader in that area, particularly in the South,” says UNCG archivist Erin Lawrimore.

There was a bit of a tussle over where they wanted to put the school – both Durham and Thomasville were sites the state considered.

“Thomasville was mad that didn't get weren't picked,” says Lawrimore. “Because they thought the girls had to come to the city - the big city - meant that they were going to focus more on how they looked than their education.”

In the century and a quarter since, what was once the Normal College has changed quite a bit.

“I think it meets student's needs where they are, at an affordable level, in a city that they live and work in, in places where they can find real connectiveness in the workplace,” said UNC System President Margaret Spellings, when she was on campus to help celebrate the university’s birthday.

"It's a fascinating history, really a three-act play,” Chancellor Franklin Gilliam said. “The first act was as a women's college. The second act is about the start of co-education, the early days in the mid-60s. And then the last few years is about being a true, four-year residential campus."

And, over time, it’s found its identity, alongside the flagship campus in Chapel Hill and the engineering school in Raleigh.

“If you want to be an engineer, you're not necessarily going to come here. But if you want to be a nurse, you're not going to find a better place to go,” says Lawrimore. “UNCG is a place where everyone can find a niche.”

See more on the school’s 125 years – including historic photos – in this edition of the Buckley Report.