UNCG Magazine

to rock
the world

New paths await a remarkable Spartan class.

Scarlett Nuñez ’22, two majors,
many honors, boundless potential.

’22, Here’s to you

The Class of 2022 is ready for their next chapter.

We are a force to be reckoned with. That’s something we’ve shown over the course of the pandemic. And I think that’s a trait that is going to be very beneficial in life because you never know what’s going to be thrown at you.”

–Nicole Rowe ’22


As the academic year comes to a close, I think of all the Commencement ceremonies this campus has seen and the tremendous impact our graduates have made.

Since our doors opened to students in 1892, unlocking potential in people not traditionally served by higher education has been encoded into our DNA.

Here at UNC Greensboro, we believe excellence in education changes lives. It’s why we have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report for providing paths to prosperity for more first-generation and lower-income students than any other public university in the state. And, because 85 percent of our graduates remain in North Carolina to live, work, or attend graduate school, their impact will be felt across the state for generations. 

The academic and social counseling and financial assistance that help these students stay on track to earn their degrees are not inexpensive. It is here the generosity of our alumni and donors makes the biggest impact. That investment in named professorships, scholarships, and student success programs will truly “light the way” for our students, helping them earn their degree and make their mark on the world.

Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Chancellor

Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr.

Where are
they Now?

We’ve met many UNCG alumni and learned their stories, over the years, through the pages of this magazine. Let’s check in with them. Where to begin? Let’s go back to the start of the last UNCG campaign. A team of writers reached out – through calls, through Zoom, coffee shop chats, hugs-and-smile-filled and sometimes tear-filled visits – to nearly 50 alumni featured in these pages since 2004. Make yourself comfortable, sit back, and let’s all catch up.

Such a Diva

Beth Leavel ’80 MA owns some of Broadway’s biggest awards, as this magazine has reported.

In May, she’ll receive an honorary degree from our University. And she will address the graduates as the commencement speaker.

“They’re getting a storyteller – who was one of the stories. I hope I can share something, impart something – I hope I can be entertaining. And I hope they leave with more joy in t heir hearts.”

Star Teacher

Leslie Ross ’97, ’08 MEd, when interviewed for a 2016 UNCG Magazine cover story, said, “Teaching is a work of the heart.” An educator and activist, she’d recently returned from a US Department of Education panel on high-need schools and a White House lunch with then-President Obama.

She’d won national recognition, as she’d been selected from more than 400 teachers in 39 states to receive the first annual Fishman Prize, an award given by The New Teacher Project to four educators working in high-need schools

Minerva’s Maker

Jim Barnhill ’82 MFA The artist who created UNCG’s Minerva statue, a gift of the Class of 1953, is Jim Barnhill, who first sculpted live models here as a master’s student at UNCG.

He’s been in the magazine a few times in the past decades, with a large feature in 2018.

He created the General Greene statue in downtown Greensboro and the iconic statue of the Greensboro Four at NC A&T, where he has taught art since 1996.

A Triumphant Return

In early 2020, the opening of Greensboro’s Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts signaled a state of unparalleled artistic growth for the city. And tickets were flying out the door for the Greensboro Opera fall production of “Porgy and Bess,” with Professor of Music and Director of UNCG Opera David Holley as producer.

When the Tanger Center directors had approached Holley three years earlier, they said, “It’s got to be something special.”

So, he’d landed on the George Gershwin masterpiece that contains some of the most recognizable songs in the opera world, so much that they are now part of the Great American Songbook.

Several high-profile UNCG alumni were perfect choices to star in the production, including MacArthur grant recipient, composer, and Grammy-winner Rhiannon Giddens, accomplished “opera powerhouse” Sidney Outlaw ’04, and the multi-talented Richard Hodges ’15.

Then, COVID-19 came crashing down on the arts world and forced a rescheduling. While other opera companies may have tried to postpone productions a few months, Greensboro Opera wisely decided on an 18-month delay. The show would surely go on. 

“We had the vision of how to accomplish it, even though we were fraught with COVID,” said Holley.

So, it was fall 2021 that they began rehearsals with the chorus – with UNCG students – and in January of 2022 the star-studded cast, including nine UNCG alumni, gathered at Well•Spring theater for their first all-cast rehearsals with stage director Everett McCorvey and conductor Awadagin Pratt.

The cast also included several UNCG professors and nine UNCG students. Forty UNCG musicians filled the orchestra. Alumni Spartans in the cast reported a familial homecoming feeling, and students were pleased to welcome them.

It’s always nice to come home. I got my feet wet in Greensboro, and this is where it kind of started for me.

–Sidney Outlaw,04

“I didn’t realize there were so many alumni in the cast until we started interacting with each other,” said doctoral student Detra Davis ’19 MM, who played the role of Annie. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ You know, it was such a great feeling to be among UNCG colleagues and professionals.”

Class Day procession in Foust Park. Class of 1965 sophomores hold the Daisy Chain while the graduating Class of 1963 walk down the center aisle, class mascots in tow.

Class Acts

Remembering the traditions of class day, sister classes, and daisy chains

Commencement week has always been special on our campus, marked by ceremony and tradition.

And daisies, thousands of daisies.

For many decades, the big event for seniors was the Class Day ceremony, held the day before commencement – usually in Foust Park. Class Day Committees planned the programs to reflect each class’s unique “personality” and showcase their accomplishments. Typically included were the presentation of the Class Gift, naming the Everlasting Class Officers and outstanding seniors, retiring the Class Colors, and singing the Class Song. 

Class identity was the nexus of campus social occasions such as bonfires and teas, musical and theatrical productions, and athletic competitions. The adoption of “Sister Classes” – juniors and freshmen, seniors and sophomores – further instilled bonds among students.


‘Read at whim,’ Fred Chappell advised Maria Hummel

‘Read at whim,’ Fred Chappell advised Maria Hummel

Maria Hummel ’98 MFA, a distinguished alumnus of UNCG’s MFA in Writing program, will read from her works Sept. 30 during UNCG’s weekend celebration of Professor Emeritus Fred Chappell.  Hummel is the author of “House and Fire,” winner of the APR/Honickman Poetry Prize and the novels: “Motherland,” a San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year; […]

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‘Fred Chappell is like Whitman. He contains multitudes,’ says Rodney Jones

‘Fred Chappell is like Whitman. He contains multitudes,’ says Rodney Jones

Rodney Jones ’73 MFA, a distinguished alumnus of UNCG’s Creative Writing program, has been the recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year, the Jean Stein Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Excellence, and the Peter I. B. Lavan Award from […]

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Fred Chappell: One of us forever

Fred Chappell: One of us forever

In recent months, film festival audiences have seen renowned author and professor emeritus Fred Chappell on the big screen. To decades of former students, he’s already larger than life. Ruth Dickey ’04 MFA, a former student of his and now executive director of the National Book Foundation, introduced Chappell and the film at its early […]

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Setting the Stage

Setting the Stage

CARMENS, TOREADORS, AND FIGAROS; TOSCAS, BESSES, AND QUEENS OF THE NIGHT – WHERE DO THEY COME FROM? In North Carolina, UNCG Opera Theatre is the premier incubator for singers who advance to the world’s greatest stages. In the past two years, they moved to virtual performances to modified live performances to almost-normal productions, except for […]

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Broadway COVID Safety, with Hugh Hysell

Broadway COVID Safety, with Hugh Hysell

As Broadway audiences have cautiously returned to theaters after the Omicron variant wave, safety is top priority for Hugh Hysell ‘88. The actor and Tony Award winning producer now leads The Broadway COVID Safety Team. In addition to checking proof of vaccination and photo ID of every ticket holder, the safety team also provides manpower […]

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Lorraine O’Grady exhibition from Brooklyn Museum of Art

Lorraine O’Grady exhibition from Brooklyn Museum of Art

It’s a big exhibition straight from the Big Apple. “Lorraine O’Grady: Both/And,” on loan from the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, is the first comprehensive overview of the work of Lorraine O’Grady, one of the most significant figures in contemporary performance, conceptual, and feminist art. O’Grady is widely known for her radical persona […]

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A lesson of their own, with Geena Davis

A lesson of their own, with Geena Davis

When Geena Davis offers you a masterclass on acting for the camera, you grab your notepad and get the best seat you can. Acting major Katherine Gerondelis loved Davis’ funny stories and the practical tips. “I learned that using your emotions before a shoot is okay – and to make sure to somewhat put yourself […]

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I DID IT Representing the first generation in his family to graduate from college, Raeford-native Saheim Jones ’22 was invited by our staff to take a few graduation photos on College Avenue. The semester was winding down, spring was in the air, and he was elated over his future. He knows he’s well-prepared. Studying business administration in UNCG’s Bryan School, he became involved in several ways, including helping to lead the university’s student government association as vice president. He gives some advice to prospective Spartans. “If you’re thinking of coming to UNCG, do it,” he says. “There’s no place like UNCG.”

Photography by Martin W. Kane
“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.”
– Emily Dickinson
Spring 2022

UNCG Magazine is published by University Communications

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
PO Box 26170 Greensboro, NC 27402-6170


Vice Chancellor for University Advancement
Beth Fischer

Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications
Richard Campbell

Director of Alumni Engagement
Mary G. Landers

Senior Director of Advancement Communications
Rachel Kelly ’07, ’09 MPA


Mike Harris ’93 MA

Art Director
Lisa Summerell

Lead Photographer
Martin W. Kane

Writers / Copy Editors
Alex Abrams
Brittany Cameron
Vivian Campbell ’20
Noel Cox ’18, ’20 MA
Victoria Cox
Colin Cutler ’16 MA
Chris Garton
Pat Holmes
Rachel Kelly ’07, ’09 MPA
Susan Kirby-Smith ’06 MA
Sam Logan ’22 MPA
Lollie White ’80 MA, ’87 PhD

Production Facilitator
Laura Pearce
Sherri MacCheyne ’10, ’14 MSITM

Web Manager
Matthew W. Johnston

Designer / Advisor
Amy Snyder

Contributing Photographers
Saundretta James ’08, ’12 MEd
Chris Lee
Aura Marzouk
Jiyoung Park ’18
Justin Reich
Bert Vanderveen ’93, ’97 MA
Mark Wethli
Gerald Young
Evan Zimmerman

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