Ever since she was a little girl, Shelby Miller knew exactly where she was going to college.
“For a long time, I thought ‘college’ just was Carolina,” she said. “I don’t think I knew there were other colleges.”
It was where she grew up watching the Tar Heels play football, where her grandfather served as chairman of the dance committee and where her parents were Morehead-Cain Scholars.
“We were raised on it,” Miller said. “It was so much in our blood that nobody didn’t want to come here. We’re definitely Tar Heel bred.”
Attending the University of North Carolina has become a long family tradition, and on May 8, Miller will complete another generation of Carolina graduates — with the patriarch of the Tar Heel family, her grandfather Jack Schofield, watching.
As Miller celebrates her earning her degree in Exercise and Sports Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, Schofield will be reliving his own college experience by attending his 65th Class Reunion with 26 other members of the Class of 1951.
“It’s definitely special that he’s going to be here,” she said. “He was always very involved in my life growing up and to be able to share this pinnacle accomplishment — especially in a way that connects our lives together so strongly — is really special.”
A family tradition
Schofield, 87, was the original Tar Heel of the family, starting at Carolina in the late 1940s as a business administration student and member of the Navy ROTC. Since then, five family members have attended and graduated from the University.
But nobody — including Miller, who tried to convince her family she was going to attend the University of Georgia instead — ever felt they were required to attend the family alma mater.
Everybody just went.
“They seem to be happy,” Schofield said. “That’s the whole thing.”
Even his wife, who graduated from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, has become an honorary Tar Heel. The one outlier to the Carolina tradition, Schofield said, is his son, who attended NC State as an undergraduate.
“That always made things interesting,” he joked.
Miller may have grown up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, but her family made sure she was no stranger to Chapel Hill.
Some of her earliest memories of the University came from attending football games with Schofield, who fell in love with Carolina football watching Charlie ‘Choo Choo’ Justice as a student.
“We always had the outfits – the little miniature cheerleader outfits and everything,” Miller said.
Eventually, she said, “college” became synonymous with Carolina.
She recalled walking through campus as a child, learning the traditions and hearing how the campus has changed throughout the years from her grandfather.
“Back in my days, the two most exciting things that happened was the weekend midnight movie at the Carolina Theater — every weekend they had a late, late night special and everybody went to that — and if you didn’t do that you went down to the Curve-In drive-in,” Schofield said. “Back in those days it was 14 miles to Durham. It’s a lot less than that now that they’ve straightened out some of the roads.”
A lot has changed in the 65 years since Schofield was a student here, but plenty has also stayed the same in the decades separating grandfather and granddaughter. Miller believes her Carolina experience was still similar to that of Schofield’s.
“I think campus is just so timeless,” she said. “You can walk through the quad and feel like you are in the same place that so many generations have been before. That’s something that will never change, even if there’s new buildings or new programs. The campus itself and existing in the same place is a huge part of what makes you feel connected to the tradition of being at Carolina. … It’s a cool feeling to see how memories don’t fade at all.”
With her four years at Carolina now behind her, she said she is glad Schofield picked Carolina to begin the family tradition. Attending another nearby college, she said, would have been a harder sell.
“If he had gone to Duke, would people have followed his footsteps?” she asked. “I doubt it.”
By Brandon Bieltz, UNC Office of Communications and Public Affairs