UNCG Magazine

Oakley gift transforms Alumni House reception room

As the new academic year swings into gear, UNC Greensboro’s Alumni House will be more inviting than ever – with refinished oak floors, a brightened appearance in the main reception room, and a new name for this newly enhanced room.

The Oakley Family Reception Room, on the main floor, received its official name at today’s UNCG Board of Trustees meeting. 

A generous commitment from Betsy and Mitchell Oakley will be used toward the current renovation of the well-utilized space. Any remaining funds will be put toward future maintenance needs for the room.

Betsy S. Oakley, who chairs the Board of Trustees and the UNCG Endowment Fund Board, also is a member of the fundraising campaign cabinet. She has served on the UNCG Human Environmental Sciences Foundation Board of Directors, the UNCG Legislative Network, the Centennial Campaign planning board, and as chair of the UNCG Friends of the Libraries. She has also served on numerous community boards and committees.

She is a 1969 alumna of UNCG, earning her bachelor of science degree in the Department of Clothing and Textiles. She began her career at Piedmont Natural Gas, and later joined the family business as vice-president and co-owner of Charles Aris Inc., an executive search firm headquartered in Greensboro.

C. Mitchell Oakley Jr., nationally recognized as a leader in his industry, is founder and chairman of Charles Aris Inc. He has ties to the University, as well; his great-grandfather Charles Brockmann and Charles’ sister, Laura Brockmann, were the first directors of the Special Department of Instrumental Music (created in 1899) at State Normal and Industrial College, the forerunner of UNCG.

In the past four decades, their focus of giving to UNCG has included the Betsy Suitt Oakley Travel Fund, the Collage Performance and Chamber Series Scholarship Fund, the School of Music Enrichment Fund, the Spartan Athletics Scholarship Fund, and the Chancellor’s Greatest Needs Fund.

“Growing up in Greensboro and having met Betsy when she was a student at UNCG in 1967, having supported Betsy’s dedication and love for the University, and believing in and supporting the Greensboro community, it’s been a pleasure, over the years, to financially support Greensboro’s leading university,” Mitchell Oakley said.

Betsy Oakley, known for her warmth and hospitality in hosting many University events in her own home, noted the joy she feels in making an impact through funding the refurbishment of this special room. “I think about all the significant events that have been held in that space – and will be held in the future.”

UNCG Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., said, “This gift is a wonderful expression of the Oakleys’ decades-long commitment to UNCG. Jacquie and I have been friends with Betsy and Mitch since we arrived in Greensboro and have been inspired by their leadership, generosity, and love of UNCG and Greensboro. We look forward to alumni and future students enjoying one of the most-used and beloved spaces on campus. I can’t think of a more fitting name for this space than the ‘Oakley Family Reception Room.’”

The Alumni House was built in 1937, envisioned as a place alumni could gather during reunions and as an inviting location for campus events and meetings.

The largest room, which serves as a centerpiece of the building, hosts several hundred events each year, including student receptions, student competitions, lectures, symposia, Faculty Senate and Staff Senate meetings, Board of Trustees meetings, and community events. It’s also a popular space for weddings for alumni. It last underwent a renovation in 2008.

“It needed a face-lift. It needed to be refreshed,” said Betsy Oakley. “I want it to reflect well on the University.”

UNCG alumna Linda Knight Carr ’76 volunteered her design services to help with the room’s refurbishment. “We were very fortunate to secure her work and her team’s work,” Betsy Oakley added.    

The Alumni House Committee, which consists of alumni from various decades, approved all the plans.

The brighter, more welcoming room will provide a wonderful environment for all.

Referred to over the decades as the “great hall,” the reception hall,” or “Virginia Dare Room,” the building’s prominent hall will finally bear its first officially chosen name. It’ll be one named for a family, Betsy Oakley notes.

“I want our grandchildren to know what giving and being philanthropic is all about. Mitchell and I have always tried to give back, and pay it forward. We feel blessed – and we really treasure Greensboro. We want to set examples for our children and grandchildren, and for our friends as well.” 

Visual by Micciche Photography; from UNCG Special Events photography collection.

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