Fun, games, and philanthropy at Founders Day 2022

As the sun shined on the statue of Charles McIver outside Jackson Library, UNCG staff volunteers set up tables at several locations around campus.

They were there to celebrate UNCG’s founders, to recognize how far the University has come, and to teach students about the importance of philanthropy.

“It’s UNCG’s 130th birthday,” called Jeff Sapp, UNCG’s executive director of development in the College of Arts and Sciences, as he greeted a student. 

This year’s celebration also marked the one-year anniversary of the public launch of the Light the Way campaign, which has raised more than $140 million toward its $200 million goal.

The campaign is an ambitious effort to strengthen three key areas at the University: access, excellence, and impact.

Students pick up Founders Day swag.

Students learned about giving back by casting their vote for one of three funds: the Spartan Food Insecurity Fund, the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Fund, and the General Scholarship fund. 

They used “McIver Pennies” to make their choice. Campaign Co-Chair Susan Safran is providing a $500 gift for the winning fund – which was General Scholarship Fund – and $250 gifts for the runners-up, which were the Spartan Food Insecurity Fund and the Equity, Inclusion & Diversity Fund.

What is a McIver penny? Well, after the University’s first president passed away, schoolchildren donated pennies to fund a statue of Charles Duncan McIver that was placed in front of the state capitol. Our McIver statue is a replica of that memorial.

That represents the true spirit of philanthropy. As Isaiah, an elementary education major said, “I feel like giving is the most important thing you can do because that’s how you build friendships.”

Beth Fischer, UNCG’s Vice Chancellor for Advancement, sees the legacy of the University’s founders influencing young Spartans. “The sooner young alumni become engaged with philanthropy, the sooner they start strengthening UNCG’s future,” she said. “This anniversary recognizes UNCG’s history, but the next generation of young alumni are blazing a trail.” 

Throughout the day, students picked up swag like bubbles, Frisbees, blankets, Pop-It fidget toys, sunglasses – and a limited-edition T-shirt that highlighted the transformative journey that the University has taken. 

The T-shirt highlighted some of the University’s “firsts”: its first president, Charles Duncan McIver; its first chancellor, Walter Clinton Jackson; its first woman chancellor, Patricia A. Sullivan; and its first African American chancellor, Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr.

Volunteers shared their UNCG stories and asked students what they value about the University.

Students spoke about their professors, the support they get from resources like the Writing and Speaking Centers, and the care that UNCG demonstrates for its students. Many pointed to the fact that UNCG feels inclusive.

“The thing I celebrate is the overall community. Everyone is so welcoming,” said Valerie, a student in the Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies program.

“The best thing about UNCG is the diversity we have here and the inclusiveness,” explained Nicole, a student in the Bryan School of Business and Economics. “It helps me to feel like I’m in a family-type environment.”

Mason, a student in the College of Health and Human Sciences, mentioned his great teachers, classmates, and the Kaplan Center for Wellness before concluding, “I kind of love everything.”

In the afternoon, a celebration on Kaplan Commons included opportunities for fun. Students played yard games like giant Jenga and Tic Tac Toe, enjoyed music, and made memories with their classmates in a photo booth complete with costume props.

“It’s really neat to see all these students out engaging with each other,” said Kevin, a graduate student in the Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education program. “Philanthropic effort means donating money to where it’s most needed to enable the most amount of success.”

By Mercer Bufter ’11 MA
Photography by Sean Norona