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Left: William H. Wagoner was the last Wilmington College president and the first UNCW chancellor, inaugurated in 1969

After establishing itself as a four-year college in 1963, the next step for Wilmington College was to rally support for joining the University of North Carolina system.

Proponents wrote a legislative bill to mirror the 1965 act that had paved the way for Charlotte College to become UNC-Charlotte. Although some members of the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees opposed expanding the system’s campuses throughout the state, the motion to recommend acceptance of Wilmington and Asheville-Biltmore Colleges passed, and the recommendation went to the North Carolina Board of Higher Education.

Support from Governor Robert Scott helped push the resolution through the Board of Higher Education and on to the legislature. House Bill 308 and Senate Bill 208 were identical bills introduced to the North Carolina General Assembly on March 11, 1969.

Prior independent committee studies on the attributes of Wilmington and Asheville-Biltmore Colleges were positive in their findings. However, there was some outside opposition to expanding the UNC system as well, particularly from Western Carolina University. WCU President Alexander Pow thought this move to expand would work “to impoverish higher education” in North Carolina, and that the move to transform Wilmington and Ashville-Biltmore into UNC schools “did not take Western Carolina University and its role and services in the region into account at all.” WCU voiced its opposition prior to and throughout the General Assembly hearings.

The North Carolina General Assembly (House and Senate) referred the bills to the House and Senate Committees on Higher Education, which returned in favor of accepting both schools in April of 1969. A few Senators and Representatives cast opposing votes, citing the expenses of adding two new campuses to the UNC system.

The General Assembly ratified the bills on April 24, and Wilmington College became part of the UNC system. Before the end of the day, a student-made poster hung at the entrance to the school with the letters “UNCW.” Official recognition of the school as a UNC university came on July 1 with the inauguration of President William H. Wagoner as the first UNCW Chancellor.

 

The full text of the act is below and can be found in the North Carolina Session Laws.

H.B. 308

An act to make Wilmington College and Ashville-Biltmore College campuses of the University of North Carolina under the designations of “The University of North Carolina at Wilmington” and “The University of North Carolina at Ashville.”

The General Assembly of North Carolina do enact:

Section 1. G.S. 116-2 is amended by adding at the end of the subsection (b) of said section the following:

“On July 1, 1969, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington shall become a campus of the University of North Carolina.”

“On July 1, 1969, The University of North Carolina at Asheville shall become a campus of the University of North Carolina.”

Sec. 2. A new Part 3B of Article 1 of Chapter 116 of the General Statues is enacted to read as follows:
“Part 3B. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington.”

“Sec. 116-39.1. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington. (a) Wilmington College shall become a campus of the University of North Carolina under the designation the University of North Carolina at Wilmington on July 1, 1969, whereupon it shall cease to be subject to any of the provisions and terms of Article 2, Chapter 116 of the General Statutes, and shall become subject to the terms of Article 1, Chapter 116 of the General Statues.

“(b) The Board of Trustees of Wilmington College shall, on or before July 1, 1969, execute proper legal instruments conveying to the University of North Carolina, without consideration, all right, title and interest of the grantor in and to the real and personal property of Wilmington College, including all endowments, executors contracts, and unexpended State appropriations or other appropriations; New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington shall continue to be solely liable for the repayment of all indebtedness incurred by that county in aid of Wilmington College.”

Sec. 3. A new Part 3C of Article 1 of Chapter 116 of the General Statues is enacted to read as follows:
“Part 3C. The University of North Carolina at Asheville.”

Sec. 116-39.2. The University of North Carolina at Asheville. (a) Asheville-Biltmore College shall become a campus of the University of North Carolina under the designation the University of North Carolina at Asheville on July 1, 1969, whereupon it shall cease to be subject to the terms and provisions of Article 2, Chapter 116 of the General Statutes, and shall become subject to the terms of Article 1, Chapter 116 of the General Statues.

“(b) The Board of Trustees of Asheville-Biltmore College shall, on or before July 1, 1969, execute proper legal instruments conveying to the University of North Carolina, without consideration, all right, title and interest of the grantor in and to the real and personal property of Asheville-Biltmore College, including all endowments, executors contracts, and unexpended State appropriations or other appropriations; Buncombe County and the City of Asheville shall continue to be solely liable for the repayment of all indebtedness incurred by that county in aid of Asheville-Biltmore College, if such obligations have been heretofore contracted for and assumed.”

Sec. 4. Amend the title to Article 2 of Chapter 116 of the General Statutes by striking out the comma, appearing after the words “Winston-Salem State College”, and by inserting in lieu of said comma a period, and by striking out from said title, or caption, the following: “Asheville-Biltmore College, Wilmington College.”

Sec. 5. Subsection (6) of G. S. 116-45 be, and the same is hereby, repealed.

Sec. 6. G.S. 116-45 be, and the same is hereby, repealed.

Sec. 7. Subsection (1) of G. S. 116-45 is hereby amended by striking out the comma, appearing after the words “Winston-Salem College”, in the last two lines of said subsection, and by inserting in lieu thereof a period, and by striking out the last line of said subsection the words “Asheville-Biltmore College” and “Wilmington College.”

Sec. 8. G. S. 116-189 Subsection (1) is amended by striking out, in the fourth line of said subsection (1), the words “Asheville-Biltmore College”, and by striking out, in the sixth and seventh lines of said subsection (1), the words “Wilmington College.”

Sec. 9. All laws and clauses in conflict with this Act are hereby repealed.

Sec. 10. G.S. 116-39.1(b) and G.S. 116-39.2(b) set forth in Section 2 and Section 3 of this Act, shall take effect upon the ratification of this Act. The remainder of this Act shall take effect on July 1, 1969.
In the General Assembly read three times and ratified, this the 24th day of April, 1969.