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Farewell to a Champion for Education and a Transformational Leader

Richard Bond, Andy Feinstein and Robert Dickeson at Feinstein's investiture as the university’s 13th president in 2018.

Richard Bond (far right) is pictured here with UNC President Andy Feinstein (center) and another former President Robert Dickeson (left) at Feinstein’s investiture as the university’s 13th president in 2018.

Debbie Farris
November 27, 2023

Former UNC President Richard Bond Passes Away

The Bear community mourns the loss of Richard Bond who passed away on Thursday, Oct. 26, at the age of 95. As UNC’s ninth president, Bond served the university from 1971-81 after serving as vice president of academic affairs at Illinois State University, an institution like UNC in mission and purpose. 

“Dick was a great leader, and the legacy he left on our university is eternal. He cared deeply about UNC and worked tirelessly on behalf of our students, faculty and staff,” said current UNC President Andy Feinstein. 

Bond grew up in a small West Virginia town during the Great Depression. His upbringing shaped his democratic values toward education. He became deeply committed to the idea of making college education as accessible as possible.

He earned his bachelor’s at Salem College, a master’s degree at West Virginia University and a doctorate in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin. After teaching biology at Salem College, he gravitated toward higher education administration at Elmira College in New York, Cornell University and Illinois State University. 

In 1963, Bond moved to Africa as the dean of Arts and Sciences through Cornell’s partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the University of Liberia. During that time, he counseled Peace Corps volunteers pursuing graduate school
after finishing their tours. The experience shaped his views on cultural diversity.

In the late 1960s, Bond returned to the U.S. in the wake of the civil rights movement to serve as the academic vice president at Illinois State. He initiated a student exchange program with two other universities to add cultural diversity to students’ educational experience. This happened at a time when the nation and students on college campuses were searching to understand identity, history and how differences fit into the idea of American culture. The program became the National Student Exchange and has since impacted the lives of more than 123,000 students across the country.

In 1971, Bond became president of UNC. His primary goals were to ensure that UNC became a teaching university with a focus on students, to create a vibrant liberal arts community atmosphere and
to increase diversity and opportunities for all students. 

The 1970s were a decade of transformation in education, and Bond saw to it that innovation and experimentation were hallmarks of UNC during his tenure. He established the departments of Mexican-American Studies, African-American Studies and Women’s Studies. He worked tirelessly to position UNC as a student-oriented institution that makes a college degree accessible to all. Bond also advocated to expand UNC’s role beyond its own campus to offer what was considered ground-breaking at the time: off-campus education programs. 

Thanks to his political acumen, Bond achieved a significant legislative accomplishment for UNC when he helped create a separate board of trustees for UNC in 1973, ensuring its governance remained separate from the four state colleges. He strongly advocated for UNC to be called the state’s “third university,” alongside University of Colorado and Colorado State University.

After retiring from UNC, Bond turned his attention to state government, serving three terms in the Colorado Legislature. Notably, he authored the Post-Secondary Options Act, which enabled students to enroll in college course work while in high school.

Bond’s accomplishments were extraordinary, and UNC formally recognized them in 2005 with the naming of Bond Hall. The historic residence hall, one of four that bears the name of former university presidents, sits along President’s Row on Central Campus. 

Former President Bond was a generous community leader, supporter and philanthropist. Together with his wife of 77 years, Reva, he supported UNC by establishing the Richard R. and Reva S. Bond Community College Scholarship Endowment, serving on the College of Natural and Health Sciences Advisory Board since 2015 and making other gifts to the college, the annual Women’s Walk, the UNC library, scholarships and athletic teams. 

For more than 50 years, Dick Bond, the quintessential teacher and a lifelong learner, has been a driving force in the evolution of education in Greeley, the state of Colorado and nationally. He will be missed.