UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Professorship Honors Tillman, Drane

021010Feature2_SmartTillman2UNCG is creating a new distinguished professorship in the performing arts to honor the first two African-American students to attend our institution.

The professorship is being named for JoAnne Smart Drane of Raleigh and the late Bettye Ann Davis Tillman Sanders, who came to Woman’s College (now UNCG) in 1956 and graduated in 1960.

The faculty position will be called the Smart-Tillman Distinguished Professorship in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. It has an endowment of $1 million and is being created with funds from the C.D. Spangler Foundation, the N.C. Distinguished Professorship Endowment and the anonymous donor who gave $6 million to UNCG in February 2009.

The Distinguished Professorship carries a five-year appointment and will rotate among the disciplines of music, theatre and dance.

“JoAnne Drane and Bettye Tillman are part of this university’s history, and JoAnne has lived a life of service to education and to UNCG, including two terms as a member of the Board of Trustees,” Chancellor Linda P. Brady said. “One of the Students First Campaign’s priorities was the creation of endowed professorships so that our students can learn from the brightest faculty. It’s entirely fitting that we name this professorship for JoAnne and Bettye.”

Their arrival and first year on the campus reflected a segregated North Carolina when the two found themselves assigned to an entire wing of a residence hall with no other students. But they persevered, made friends with white students and, by the time Drane and Tillman pioneered their way to graduation in 1960, the campus had 20 African-American students.

Sanders, who died eight years after graduating, taught social studies at Frederick-Sasser Junior-Senior High School and Douglass Junior-Senior High School in Upper Marlboro, Md. She also did further study at the University of Maryland and American University.

Drane went on to earn her master’s degree at Duke University and became a public school official in Raleigh. She served as vice president of the UNCG Alumni Association from 1990 to 1992 and later on the UNCG Board of Trustees from 1996 to 2004. She is a member of the board of directors of Strengthening the Black Family, Inc., a nonprofit community-based networking organization. In 2004, she was named to the YWCA Academy of Women for her commitment to improving the quality of education in North Carolina.

“The news that my alma mater had named a $1 million dollar endowed distinguished professorship bearing the names of its first two African-American students came as a complete shock and surprise. It was entirely unexpected,” said Drane. “I could never have imagined or thought that such a tremendous honor would be accorded Bettye Ann Davis Tillman and me. That the early African-American presence and influence on the campus has been regarded as so significant underscores and emphasizes UNCG’s continuing commitment to the importance of diversity.

“As wonderful as the honor itself is, what most excites me is that outstanding faculty will be rewarded for their commitment and dedication to excellence in teaching, that they will be able to extend their research efforts toward new knowledge in their fields of expertise, and that they will be providing services benefiting students and the university, as well as the larger community. Additionally, an endowment of this magnitude will allow UNCG to attract, recruit and retain some of the brightest minds and top-notch faculty in the respective fields of music, dance and theatre. How awesome is that?

“The School of Music has the reputation of being one of UNCG’s most prestigious and respected schools. I am honored to have my name and Bettye’s name associated with that standard of excellence. It makes the honor all the more special. If Bettye were alive today she would be as thrilled as I, knowing that our experiences in the late 1950s as pioneers in the desegregation of a formerly all-white institution are being acknowledged, appreciated and recognized in this magnificent manner. I am grateful, humbled and deeply touched. Bettye would be, too.”

UNCG is using $417,000 of the anonymous gift for matching funds to endow the distinguished professorship. The university has received over $500,000 in additional funds – $250,000 from the C.D. Spangler Foundation and $333,000 from the N.C. Distinguished Professorship Endowment Trust Fund – to bring the total to $1 million.

Visual: Bettye Tillman, right, and JoAnne Drane as students.