The University of North Carolina at Wilmington started as a small college center directed by the North Carolina College Conference. The New Hanover County Board of Education was charged with raising a tax to pay for the new junior college. After funds were raised, Wilmington College opened in September 4, 1947, and most students had served in World War II. The college received accreditation from the N.C. College Conference a year after its opening, and it was “one of the first three community colleges in the state” (Powell, p. 1153).
After its induction in the state funded community college organization, Wilmington College soon became a four-year degree school. By the early 1970s, Wilmington became the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNC at Wilmington) and it was inducted into the University of North Carolina higher education system. In 1977, UNC at Wilmington started graduate programs, and several years later the Board of Governors made the university a Comprehensive Level 1 school.
In the 1960s a new site for the growing college was decided to be NC 132, or as it is more commonly known today, College Road. Since the campus move, UNC at Wilmington encompasses nearly 700 acres of land and 70 buildings placate across the campus. The 50-foot clock tower, located at Campus Commons, was donated by the class of 2000 and it has since become an important landmark on the Wilmington campus. The historic Wise Alumni House and Kenan House are two important homes on the campus as well.
According to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington website, over 13,000 students currently attend the university. A total of 1,800 full-time faculty and staff work at UNC - Wilmington. The university offers 52 bachelor degrees, 31 master programs, and two doctoral degree programs. Wilmington’s most famous program is marine biology offered at the Center for Marine Science Research. William S. Powell writes that the university “also offers a Ph.D. in marine biology, one of only two such programs on the East Coast” (Encyclopedia, p. 1153).
“University of North Carolina at Wilmington.” William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).
“University of N.C. at Wilmington.” North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program website. A Division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. (accessed January 31, 2012).
“UNC Wilmington History and Traditions.” University of North Carolina at Wilmington website. http://uncw.edu/aboutuncw/aboutHistory.html, (accessed January 31, 2012).
By Jonathan Martin, North Carolina History Project
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