Best-selling author Grisham to speak at Commencement

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Best-selling author Grisham to speak at Commencement


ohn Grisham, author of 23 books including numerous best-selling legal thrillers, will deliver the 2010 commencement address on May 9. Chancellor Holden Thorp will preside at the ceremony, set for 9:30 a.m. in Kenan Stadium.

Grisham’s last book, “Ford County,” was published last November and is his first collection of short stories. The Mississippi setting was also where his first novel, “A Time to Kill,” took place.

Before he became a best-selling author, Grisham was a successful lawyer in Mississippi and served in the state’s House of Representatives. Since “A Time to Kill” was published in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year.

Currently, more than 235 million Grisham books are in print worldwide, and they have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been made into movies. “The Innocent Man,” published in 2006, was his first work of nonfiction.

Grisham has spoken at two North Carolina Literary Festivals held on campus, in 1998 and the most recent festival last fall. His daughter, Shea, graduated from Carolina in 2008 with a degree in elementary education and teaches

in Raleigh.

Four distinguished guests will receive honorary degrees during the ceremonies.


Paul Rizzo, chair emeritus of Franklin Street Partners, a private investment management firm and trust company in Chapel Hill, will receive a doctor of laws degree.

Coach Carl Snavely recruited Rizzo, a native of Clinton, N.Y., to Cornell on a football scholarship. When Snavely moved to Carolina in 1945, Rizzo followed. After a tour of duty in the Army, Rizzo lettered in football in four seasons on the legendary Carolina team that included Charlie Justice and Art Weiner, and he was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece.

After graduating with a degree in accounting, Rizzo embarked on a business career that culminated in the position of vice chair of the board and chief financial officer of IBM.

After he was named dean of the Kenan-Flag-ler Business School in 1987, Rizzo initiated an era of phenomenal growth that included a push for a new building and an executive education program that more than quadrupled in funding during his tenure.

At the end of his five-year term as dean, Rizzo had raised the Kenan-Flagler Business School to national stature. Kenan-Flagler’s Paul J. Rizzo Conference Center at Meadowmont was named in his honor.

He has received the prestigious 1994
William Richardson Davie Award and the General Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Medal.


Gene Roberts, known as a hard-nosed
journalist who in an era of great editors took second place to none, will receive a doctor of laws degree.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Carolina in 1954, Roberts began his lifelong love of journalism by helping with the Goldsboro Herald, a weekly newspaper published by his father.

He wrote for the Goldsboro News-Argus, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, The News & Observer and the Detroit Free Press before he joined the staff of The New York Times. There, he became one of the first people to report in depth about the effect of the civil rights revolution on the lives of ordinary people.

Roberts became national editor of the Times in 1969 and left in 1972 to become executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer. During his 18-year tenure, Roberts turned the Inquirer into a top-10 newspaper that won 17 Pulitzer Prizes, including two gold medals for public service.

He then joined the faculty at the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism, teaching courses on writing complex stories, the press and the civil rights movement, and newsroom management. In 1994, Roberts returned to The New York Times and retired in 1997 to teach again at Maryland.

In 1990, the staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Knight-Rider endowed the Eugene L. Roberts Prize in Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


Fred Robinson, the Douglas Tracy Smith Professor of English Emeritus at Yale University and the foremost North American scholar of the earliest recorded period of English language and literature, will receive a doctor of humane letters degree.

Robinson earned his Ph.D. in English and comparative linguistics from Carolina in 1961. Within two decades of completing his doctorate, Robinson had held faculty appointments at Stanford, Cornell and Yale, and had been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America.

Over the course of his career, Robinson has been a philologist in its original sense – a lover of words. His reputation is based not only on his vast production of scholarly books and articles, but also on the quality and originality of his research.

His scholarship ranges from editions of Old English works, a major literary reappraisal of “Beowulf,” philological notes and an introductory grammar for students of Old English.

Two of Robinson’s former graduate students edited a book of essays in Robinson’s honor in 1998. Its title, “Words and Work,” aptly echoes a passage in “Beowulf” explaining that one must judge others both by their words and

their works.

In the preface, Robinson’s former students said: “His achievements as a scholar emanate from his love of words as the resonant constituents of language and his love of works as the larger forms into which words cohere.”


Patricia Timmons-Goodson, an associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, will receive a doctor of laws degree.

A native of Florence, S.C., Timmons-Goodson received her bachelor’s and law degrees from Carolina in 1976 and 1979, respectively. She began her legal career as a prosecutor in the office of the Cumberland County District Attorney.

In 1984, at age 29, she was appointed District Court judge, a position she held for 13 years until she was elevated to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 1997.

Timmons-Goodson retired from the Court of Appeals in 2005, believing she had completed her service to North Carolina, but within only a few months Gov. Mike Easley asked her to accept an appointment to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

She was the first African-American woman to serve as a judge in her native Cumberland County, the first to be elected to any state appellate court and the first to serve on North Carolina’s highest court.

At Timmons-Goodson’s induction ceremony, Chief Justice Sarah Parker said it was the first time that the court had two women among its seven justices.

As a Carolina undergraduate, Timmons-Goodson was inducted into the Order of

the Valkyries and the Order of the Old
Well in recognition of her outstanding leadership abilities.

On University Day 2008, she administered the oath of office to Thorp when he became Carolina’s 10th chancellor. Timmons-Goodson’s many honors and awards include the 2007 William R. Davie Award and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Additional information

The doctoral hooding ceremony will be held May 8 at 10 a.m. at the Dean E. Smith Center.

The hooding ceremony speaker will be veteran college professor and administrator Barbara Gitenstein, the first woman president in the 154-year history of The College of New Jersey. Gitenstein received a bachelor’s degree with honors in English from Duke University and a doctorate in English and American literature from Carolina.

In case of inclement weather, the May 9 Com-

mencement ceremony will be moved to the Smith Center. If that happens, attendance will be limited and tickets will be required for entry. Each graduate will be allocated five tickets – one for himself or herself and four for guests.

Tickets can be downloaded from Tickets are not needed for the hooding ceremony. The Web site also includes details about parking and other information about the weekend’s events.


Poet captures surreal landscape of post-Katrina New Orleans

Katie Bowler knew she liked to write at an age when most children learn to read.

“I started writing dialogue in the first grade,” Bowler said. She got strong encouragement from her mother, then a high school English teacher who said Bowler’s writing was better than most of her students.

This love of words led to a fascination with the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

Bowler remembers, at the age of 10, pedaling her bicycle to the public library after school in her hometown of Harahan, La., to check out one of Dickinson’s books, only to be turned away at the checkout desk.

It was an adult book that she was told she could not check out using her juvenile card. Undaunted, Bowler sat for hours on the library steps waiting for her mother to check out the book for her.

Bowler, who is now the assistant dean for communications at the School of Law, eventually figured out that she was much too young at 10 to grasp the meaning behind Dickinson’s words. Understanding her at 35 remains a challenge that Bowler said she continues

to pursue.

But she had not been too young to be mesmerized by Dickinson’s odd-shaped lines – from the extensive use of dashes to the way she capitalized words in places Bowler’s teachers would never have allowed.

That enduring fascination with unconventional form appears in Bowler’s own book of poetry, “State Street” by Bull City Press, which is about the surreal landscape of post-Katrina New Orleans.

The book chronicles how Bowler and photographer Donn Young led an “NBC Nightly News” crew into the city as the floodwaters began to recede to reclaim what could be salvaged from more than 35 years of Young’s historic New Orleans photography.

At Young’s studio, they found that nearly all of the 1.5 million images had been under 10 feet of water. Even so, the Special Collections staff and graduate students at Louisiana State University’s Hill Memorial Library salvaged 40,000 images.

At the time, Bowler was a working wife and mother, employed as senior manager for communications at Tulane University and living in Harahan.

Harahan was a flat,
2.5-square-mile patch of suburbia, seven feet above sea level, hunkered down in a crook of the Mississippi River along New Orleans’ western fringe.

After Katrina, Bowler said, everything about New Orleans and her town that had made them familiar vanished overnight.

Many of the people in that area – from the clerk who bagged groceries to the neighbors down the street – disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.

Her marriage soon shattered and left her in a state of shock. She wrote more than 50 poems in the first year after Katrina, but it was not until 15 months after the storm that she wrote “State Street.”

The torrent of words poured out in the middle of the night – 4 a.m. to be exact – as if pulled from a dream.

“I became aware through the process that I was focused on something and I didn’t want to let go,” Bowler said. “I was so focused I didn’t physically move except for my fingers banging away on the keyboard.”

Dear Friends,

May you please never know

what a book looks like

dissolving in your hands.

She felt so excited she was shaking, afraid to break the spell, hunched in bed.

My mother says, Do you need some water?

My mother says that. My mother actually says, Do you need some water?

Do you need some water? Do you need

some water?

Her fingers continued to bang for six hours straight. She might well have gone longer, she said, “but I got hungry.”

Did you know you really can find miles
of houses

where all the front doors are wide open?

That’s the closest to nothing

that nothing gets

unless it’s gone.

In that morning, she had she found a way of capturing the experience of Katrina, and at the same time freeing herself from its grip.

But the work of an artist goes beyond the need for catharsis, Bowler said. The task of an artist is to communicate experience through the written word – and allow a reader to inhabit and grasp a world they have not seen.

“Writing the book was both a duty and a burden,” Bowler said. “We look back to the poetry and writing and drama of the past to reveal what the human experience was like. Art is what conveys experience generation

after generation.”


A surgeon examines the life of forgotten founding father

Who is the most fascinating founding father forgotten

by history?

The undisputable answer, for George Sheldon at least, is Hugh Williamson. Sheldon, professor of surgery and social medicine in the School of Medicine, produced a remedy for the historic slight with his recently published biography, “Hugh Williamson: Physician, Patriot and Founding Father.”

How Sheldon found out about Williamson – and ended
up spending a decade to research and write the book – is a story of unfolding serendipity that dates back to Sheldon’s undergraduate years at the University of Kansas more than a half-century ago.

It began at the end of his first year when he received the highest test score for a course in Western Civilization that all students in the liberal arts had to pass before they could graduate.

The next fall, Kansas made the decision to make the course a requirement, which created an immediate shortage of instructors available to teach it. That led administrators to hire Sheldon, then a sophomore, as an “assistant instructor” to teach eight classes. That same year he served as student body president while taking a full load of pre-med courses.

His experience teaching history not only paid his way through college, but it also led to an offer during his first year of medical school to work with medical historian L.R.C. Agnew to explore the life of Philip Syng Physick, considered “the father of American surgery.”

The article the two men co-authored, which appeared in June 1960 in “The Journal of Medical Education,” remains the authoritative source of information on Physick cited in the Dictionary of American Biography.

Physician turned historian

Sheldon’s work as a medical historian – and his path to Williamson – might well have ended that summer.

After graduating from the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Sheldon’s career as a surgeon took off, first as a fellow in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic, then as a resident in surgery at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), followed by a fellowship in surgical biology at Harvard Medical School.

He returned to UCSF to serve as professor of surgery and chief of the trauma service before coming to Chapel Hill in 1984 to serve as chair of the Department of Surgery, a position he held for the next 17 years.

Over the course of his illustrious career, Sheldon served as president of all major surgical organizations. It was in this capacity that he managed to keep his interest in medical history alive, Sheldon said. As he was called upon to deliver major lectures at annual meetings, he used them as an opportunity to research topics he wanted to know more about.

Sheldon’s earlier scholarly work on the life of Physick led to a lifelong fascination with John Hunter, a leading biologist and surgeon of the 18th century whose anatomical school in London became a destination point, not only for Physick but for many other aspiring doctors from the colonies.

Hunter kept a register of all the students who worked with him, and for one of his lectures, Sheldon decided to travel to Philadelphia to search the archives and trace the life of each student upon his return to America.

As Sheldon gathered his material, Hugh Williamson was first just another name on the list. Then it became the one name he could not check off, primarily because the rich trail of information about Williamson abruptly ended at the start of the Revolutionary War – almost as if Williamson had fallen off a cliff.

Two weeks before Sheldon’s lecture, in a random visit to Davis Library, he stumbled upon a lithograph of Williamson that showed the man had ended up in North Carolina during the war.

That discovery led to another mystery Sheldon felt compelled to reveal: Why?

A patriot accused

Williamson helped plan, and even witnessed, the Boston Tea Party. Immediately afterward, John Hancock – the wealthy ship owner and statesman from Massachusetts – put Williamson on one of his fastest ships to report news of the event to King George III and the Privy Court.

Williamson stayed in London to spy for Benjamin Franklin, with whom he corresponded regularly. Over the course of their long lives, Williamson’s relationship with Franklin endured its ups and downs, Sheldon said.

In a 1764 pamphlet, “What Is Sauce for a Goose Is Also Sauce for a Gander,” Williamson indirectly accused Franklin of abetting passage of the Stamp Act. Franklin responded by calling Williamson “one of the most detestable skunks in human history.”

Four years later, though, Williamson was elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society, which Franklin founded.

In 1769, the society appointed Williamson to separate commissions to study the transits of Venus and Mercury around the sun. In 1770, Williamson presented a paper to the society that linked warmer weather to land that had been populated and cleared of trees.

In 1774, Williamson co-wrote with Franklin and Hunter a paper on the electric eel that was presented to the Royal Society of London, a learned society for science founded in 1660 by King Charles II.

Just two years later, Franklin endorsed the false charge that Williamson was a British spy. The charge, leveled in a letter by Silas Deane, the first official envoy to France from the Continental Congress, was made as Williamson returned to the colonies that October.

Off the Delaware coast, Williamson’s ship was captured by the British. Williamson managed to escape by rowboat and make his way to the Continental Congress where he applied for, but was denied, a military commission because of the charge that he was a spy. Under this cloud of suspicion, Williamson left for Charleston, S.C., to join his brother in the business of shipbuilding and commercial trading.

Williamson planned to center his commercial operations in Philadelphia, but a British blockade in the Chesapeake Bay forced him to dock his ship in the port of Edenton off the North Carolina coast.

For whatever reason, Sheldon said, Williamson stayed in the Tar Heel state – and remained loyal to the cause of independence. In a 1778 letter, Williamson chafed at the question of his loyalty: “There was not in America a man who served it more faithfully or disinterestedly.”

In service to country and state

That service to country found deep and multifaceted expression in Williamson’s adopted home of North Carolina from 1777 to 1793, Sheldon said.

In 1779, a year after affirming his loyalty to the colonies by signing the Book of Allegiance in Edenton, Williamson was appointed surgeon general of the North Carolina Revolutionary War militia. As an army surgeon, he recommended inoculation against smallpox for civilians and military troops before they entered active service.

In 1782, Williamson returned to Edenton and was elected to the N.C. House of Commons. In 1787, the governor appointed Williamson to serve as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. And on Sept. 17, 1787, he was one of the 39 delegates (out of the 55 delegates in attendance) who signed the United States Constitution in the city where a decade earlier he had been accused of being a Tory spy.

Williamson was also a member of the Fayetteville Convention where North Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution and became a state. He later represented North Carolina in the first session of the U.S. House of Representatives, then moved to New York City after his term expired.

Throughout his life, Williamson held faculty positions at what became the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Delaware, Princeton University and Columbia University. On Feb. 6, 1795, when the bylaws of the University of North Carolina were adopted, he took on a new role by serving as the first secretary of the Board of Trustees, a position he held until 1798.

Like many of his contemporaries, Williamson was many things: physician, surgeon, scientist, rebel, statesman and accused spy.

Thanks to Sheldon’s diligent labors, UNC President Emeritus William Friday wrote in the foreword to the book, those works can no longer be so easily forgotten.

“Hugh Williamson was different; he had a fine education and he used that great asset fully in the service of the revolution in his time,” Friday wrote. “Williamson came by his role as patriot out of service as a university professor; a scholar of medicine and science; colleague of Jefferson, Washington, Madison and Franklin; and a molder of government in North Carolina in the late eighteenth century.

“George Sheldon’s scholarly work clearly established the vital relationship Hugh Williamson had to the emergence of the fledgling democracy in the New World. In North Carolina, he stands with William R. Davie and others who gave this state its very proud role of builder of a new nation of free people.”


State budget shortfall could affect the academic core

The state’s economic woes are not yet a thing of the past, but the budget picture for the upcoming fiscal year seems to be looking better than it did last year at this time.

In addressing the Employee Forum community meeting earlier this month, Chancellor Holden Thorp said that the continuing weak economy will likely result in “a difficult summer in Raleigh” for legislators hammering out a new budget, but their task will be easier than it was a year ago.

The University has already begun making plans for state budget cuts for the new fiscal year that begins July 1 on top of the total 10 percent reduction taken last year.

During the annual Budget Committee deliberations, administrators submitted proposals that assumed new cuts of 5 percent as well as continued declines in funding from endowment earnings.

Last week, Gov. Beverly Perdue presented her
$19 billion budget proposal that would hold spending close to current levels and not raise taxes.

The governor’s plan, which is the first step in the budget deliberation process, would cut 600 jobs, most of which are vacant, and trim agency budgets by 5 percent to 7 percent. The impact for higher education would be about

6 percent when coupled with the permanent 2 percent reduction from last year.

In an April 20 statement, UNC President Erskine Bowles said he was grateful the governor had recommended full funding for the UNC system’s projected enrollment growth and need-based financial aid for next year.

In addition, Perdue supported the Board of Governors’ proposal to hold tuition increases to 5.2 percent on average, with the funds to remain on the campuses for need-based financial aid, improvements to retention and graduation, and other critical campus needs.

“On the other hand, we are deeply disappointed in the magnitude of budget cuts that the governor was forced by economic circumstances to recommend for the university, particularly since we have cut more than our fair share throughout this budget crisis,” Bowles said.

For 2009–10, the UNC system took permanent budget cuts totaling $162.5 million, including the elimination of 935 positions, Bowles said, and to protect universities’ academic core, nine of every 10 positions eliminated were administrative jobs.

“But let me be clear,” he said. “The university cannot continue to bear such a disproportionate share of the budget shortfalls and maintain its academic quality.”

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