When Bob Young and Lennie Rosenbluth came from their native New York City to Carolina — as recruits for a team destined to become 1957 basketball national champions — they dined on some strange concoctions.
“We had Southern fried chicken, turnip greens, hush puppies and things we’d never heard of,” said Young. “But it tasted good right away, because we were hungry.”
However, his main impression wasn’t about food. “The most important thing was the way the people of North Carolina received us, the students and everyone, and how welcome they made us feel. It was one of the best four years of my life.”
After graduation, Young joined the U.S. Marines and went on to a successful career in sales and marketing at companies including The New Yorker magazine.
Now retired in Naples, Fla., he recently bequeathed $2 million to the College of Arts and Sciences for the Robert F. and Patricia A. Young and the 1957 Carolina Basketball Team Professorship of Poetry. He wished to honor his beloved wife, Pat, who died April 12, and the team.
Beverly Taylor, chair of the English and comparative literature department, called Young’s generosity “a wonderful way for an alumnus to honor his past at UNC by investing in the University’s future.
“Although some students today are a bit afraid of studying poetry, they often discover a lifelong passion when they do,” she said.
Poetry? Pat Young loved it. She wrote some herself. She earned a degree in fine arts from Finch College and worked on what Young called “the creative side” of businesses.
Young recently found his wife’s note in one of her poetry books, quoting an unnamed source: “The books of theologians gather dust upon my shelves, but the pages of the poets are stained with my fingers and blotted with my tears.”
Young also was versed in verse: “I was an English major, and I took poetry. I struggled with Milton’s Paradise Lost and Chaucer, but I loved it.”
Young recognized the ’57 team for its prowess on and off the court. “Everyone graduated and went on to successful careers. To me, that was pretty remarkable.
“I thought this professorship was an opportunity to draw attention to their achievement — having gone undefeated (32-0) and defeating [heavily favored] Kansas in triple overtime [in the championship game] and Michigan State in triple overtime the night before” in the semifinals.
Young hopes others will give to the professorship to honor the storied ’57 team.
Poet and Professor Michael McFee said the professorship will help the department and creative writing program build on a strength that has attracted the best students on campus for generations.
“As senior faculty retire, this professorship will guarantee that we can continue to serve students interested in reading and writing poetry by bringing in an outstanding teacher to guide them,” he said.
Since retiring, Young has worked with the Frank McGuire Foundation, the Marine Corps League, various charities and a school for kids with discipline problems.
He has a message for alumni who might consider giving to the professorship:
“Never forget what that education did for you. In large measure, having a degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a stepping stone to a successful career in whatever field you choose.”
For more information on making a gift to the professorship, contact Angela O’Neill, assistant director of development, Arts and Sciences Foundation, 919-843-2745, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By LJ Toler ’76