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Wilmington College Dramatics club (1951)


UNCW Student Theater Timeline: First 25 Years

*Gathered from archival sources including the student newspaper and the UNCW faculty/staff newsletter


1957 - Wilmington College Theatre debuted with "The Silver Whistle."

1959 - Wilmington College dramatics department initiated a summer theater course. Student summer stock theater was named Wilmington College (WILCO) Straw Hat Theater. The first production was Moliere's Imaginary Invalid under the direction of Professor Doug Swink

1968 - The Seahawk student newspaper reports that the Straw Hat Theater will celebrate its 10th anniversary by staging six shows instead of one or two as in previous summers. The Wilmington Women's Club was the first sponsor.

Aug. 4-7, 1983 - The Straw Hat Theater celebrates 25 years with a musical revue show.

Professor Doug Swink in Kenan Auditorium with drama students

Photo of Professor Doug Swink and drama students backstage in Kenan Auditorium (click thumbnail to enlarge)

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Photo of Seahawk sculpture. Artist: Joe Orlando. Photo is from Randall Library Digital Collections: Visual Art Community of Wilmington and Southeasters N.C.: A Digital Exhibit.

On July 22, 2003, the UNCW mascot sculpture that had been perched on a rock in front of Warwick Center was reported missing. Fortunately, the bird was found very soon after its disappearance.

The statue, created by Joe Orlando, had been ripped from its base, leaving a pair of osprey talons. Recovery began when a woman--who happened to be a photographer for a local television station--walked outside her apartment in Holton Place off N. Kerr Avenue and found the 75-pound statue on the landing. UNCW officials awarded her with basketball season tickets.

The sculpture returned to its home in front of Warwick Center on September 4, 2003, and remains there today. Metal sculptor Dumay Gorham III restored and re-attached the bird to its granite base. Gorham installed solid bronze posts where the bronze casting meets the feet to prevent the statue from taking flight again.

Dedicated in 2000, the statue had become a good luck charm. Fans would often pet its talons before a basketball game.


"Police Blotter." Star News (Wilmington, NC), July 25, 2003. Page 2B. Retrieved from Lexis-Nexis.

"Seahawk mascot ripped off at UNCW." Star News (Wilmington, NC), July 23, 2003. Page 1B. Retrieved from Lexis-Nexis.

"UNCW mascot recovered." Campus Communique v. 33, no. 3. July 24, 2003. Page 1. Available:

"UNCW sculpture returns to its perch: The bird is back." Star News (Wilmington, NC), September 5, 2003. Page 1B. Retrieved from Lexis-Nexis.

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Photograph of the Board of Trustees. Dr. Hubert Eaton is in the 1st row, 3rd from left.

Hubert A. Eaton (1916-1991), longtime Wilmington, N.C., physician, became the first African American chair of the UNCW Board of Trustees.

He was also a nationally ranked tennis amateur and mentor to Althea Gibson. As a civil rights leader, Dr. Eaton was the primary catalyst for the integration of UNCW, the New Hanover County Schools and the county hospitals.

Dr. Eaton made a statement to the Board and it is excerpted below. Read the full statement in the University Archives UNCW Board of Trustees Digital Collection.

Doctor Eaton requested permission to address the Board prior to recessing for committee meetings. Following his presentation, Doctor Codington moved that the remarks of Doctor Eaton be included in its entirety in the minutes. Seconded by Mrs. Goodson, the motion carried, and the following remarks of Doctor Eaton were recorded in the minutes of this meeting:

“I would like to exercise the privilege of the Chair to make a few brief remarks before proceeding with the agenda.

(1) It has been 20 years and almost four months to the day since I sat in the parlor of Dr. John T. Hoggard, the Founder of this Institution, and expressed to him my disappointment and concern with the unfairness of the grossly unequal dual program of college education being provided for white students as compared to that being provided for Negro students.

The following spring, a notice appeared in the Wilmington Star-News announcing the desegregation of this Institution beginning in September of 1962. Ernest Fullwood, a local attorney, and Marshall Collins, a minister in Texas, were the first black students to enroll.

Depending upon one's societal perspective, 19 years may indeed seem like an incredibly long or short time span. Nevertheless, these 19 years have seen considerable racial progress produced partly by changes in attitudinal patterns and partly by new laws. The resulting changes are too numerous to mention.

(2) During these years, this Institution has experienced a phenomenal growth and an almost unparalled record of success. Many factors have played roles in this progress, a few of which are:

(a) Boards of Trustees which have demonstrated a sense of purpose and dedication and which were void of personality conflicts;

(b) an unusually competent and cooperative Chancellor, Dr. William H. Wagoner, who has the good fortune to possess as much common sense as educated sense, in addition to good judgment;

(c) well-trained, efficient and hard-working Vice Chancellors and faculty; and

(d) administrative and maintenance personnel who have been able and willing to perform at a high level of efficiency.



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On Wilmington College's first day as a four-year college, president William M. Randall responded to questions about a new law, HB 1395, An Act to Regulate Visiting Speakers at State Supported Colleges and Universities. The act became widely known as the "Speaker Ban Law."

Fifty years ago, on June 25, 1963, the NC General Assembly adopted HB 1395. The law prohibited speeches on North Carolina public college campuses by "known" members of the Communist Party, persons "known" to support the overthrow of the constitutions of North Carolina or the United States, or by individuals who had invoked the Fifth Amendment (the right to remain silent) during congressional investigations about communist subversion.

There is extensive historical analysis of this controversial law. One source is a book by historian and UNCW alumnus William J. Billingsley.

When asked to comment on the Speaker Ban Law, Dr. Randall said,

"The law seems a little superfluous because of a law passed in 1941, which is now on the statutes and has never been repealed, that covers any subversion .... Certainly Wilmington College has and never expects to have an 'out-and-out' communist speaker on our campus, whether there is a law against it or not" (Wilmington Star-News, 2 July, 1963).

The law was modified in 1965 and went off the books in 1968.

Minutes of the Board of Trustees meeting, July 23, 1963 -- Brief mention of HB 1395.

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2013 marks the 50th anniversary of S.B. 72, Chapter 48, "An Act to Promote and Encourage Education Beyond the High School in North Carolina." This act by the N.C. Legislature established Asheville-Biltmore College, Charlotte College, and Wilmington College as public senior colleges effective July 1. Wilmington College and the other institutions would no longer be subject to the Community College Act (General Statutes, Chapter 116, Article 3) and instead would be subject to the State Colleges Act (General Statues, Chapter 116, Article 2). The act stipulated requirements concerning the creation of a new Board of Trustees for each institutions and for continual county financial support for the first 2 years by levying a special county-wide tax.

The first junior class in Wilmington College/UNCW history began in the fall semester of 1963.

Both pictures are from the Fledgling, the 1964 yearbook for Wilmington College


President William Madison Randall marks first year as senior calege in yearboook.