When choosing the newest class of Honored Alumni, the selection committee looks for the most qualified nominees—but what does “most qualified” actually mean? Successful nominations almost always include a moving story of success and a meaningful relationship with UNC.
Ronna Sanchez ’80, ’82, ’88, ’00, a 2013 Honored Alumna, has served on the selection committee for three years. “We look for excellence, whether that be in the alum's chosen professional field or in another capacity of their life,” Sanchez says.
The committee, composed of Alumni Board members, considers personal and professional achievement, contributions back to the university community through volunteering or philanthropy, and how an alumnus has helped elevate UNC’s profile.
Recent honorees have included volunteers, international politicians, professors, donors, and trailblazers. One form of success is not more likely to be selected than any other.
“Our alums come from all walks of life and pursue different life paths after graduation, and that is very challenging to compare,” Sanchez says.
“One of my favorite parts of reading each nomination is seeing what paths we all choose once we leave UNC,” adds Brad Inhulsen ’12, an Honored Alumnus in 2015 and selection committee member.
Someone who has been wildly successful in their chosen field but has not stayed connected with their alma mater is unlikely to be selected over a dedicated volunteer. The relationship with UNC matters.
“Just as important is their engagement with UNC,” Sanchez explains. “That could be anything from supporting UNC events, to volunteering with UNC, to providing financial support, or publicly sharing UNC's story with other organizations or groups.”
A nominator should also collect letters of support from different spheres of a nominee’s network. Nominations with two to five letters of support inevitably rise to the top because the committee has a more complete view of the nominee’s impact on the people around them.
The nomination period for the 2018 awards opened only a few days ago, and this year is already shaping up to be highly competitive. The selection committee will have a strong pool of inspiring Bears to choose from, which provides a challenge for the board members who volunteer for the committee.
“There are so many Bears that are out there who are doing such a great job showing their Bear Pride and giving us as a university a great name,” says Inhulsen. “The hardest part is finding only five that we can honor.”