History of the College of Arts & Sciences
The College is the oldest and largest academic unit at UNC-Chapel Hill and dates back to 1795.
The modern-day College of Arts & Sciences grew out of the College of Liberal Arts (1909-1935) and the School of Applied Science (1908-1935) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The former was established in 1909 by President Francis Preston Venable, who separated the duties of administering what was known then as “the College” from those of the dean of the university. The previous year, 1907-08, the Department of Applied Science, which had grown out of the School of Mines, had been renamed the School of Applied Science. In 1922 the School of Engineering was established; it maintained close academic ties to the School of Applied Science, although it was administered separately.
In 1935, following the transfer of the School of Engineering to North Carolina State College in Raleigh, the College of Liberal Arts and the School of Applied Science were merged to form the College of Arts & Sciences. The faculties within the College were organized into divisions based on academic discipline: humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. In 1963 the Division of Fine Arts was added.
Source: Collection Number: 40076
Collection Title: Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1917-2002 (bulk 1960-1997)
In 2018-19, the University celebrated its 225th birthday, harkening back to the laying of the cornerstone for Old East, its first building, in 1793. Although the College of Arts & Sciences didn’t take its current name until 1935, its roots are nearly as old as the University itself. The University considers the College’s founding date to be 1795, when Old East opened and students arrived.
Here is a timeline of when the College of Arts & Sciences’ modern-day academic departments and major centers, institutes and programs were founded. Many of the oldest departments trace their origins back to when the first faculty were hired, since formal departments did not exist until much later. View a searchable, text-only version of the timeline.
Deans of the College of Arts and Sciences
1930 – 1946 Allan Wilson Hobbs
1946 – 1951 William Smith Wells
1951 – 1953 Clifford Pierson Lyons
1953 – 1955 C. Hugh Holman, Chairman
1955 – 1965 Joseph Carlyle Sitterson
1965 – 1966 Frank Marion Duffey, Acting
1966 – 1968 John Charles Morrow, III
1968 – 1972 Raymond Howard Dawson
1972 – 1977 James Reuben Gaskin
1977 – 1985 Samuel Ruthven Williamson
1985 – 1991 Gillian Townsend Cell
1991 – 1992 Stephen S. Birdsall, Acting
1992 – 1997 Stephen S. Birdsall
July 1997 Thomas B. Clegg, Acting
1997 – 2003 Risa Ileen Palm
2003 – 2004 Richard Soloway, Acting
2004 – 2006 Bernadette Gray-Little
2006 – 2007 Madeline G. Levine, Acting
2007 – 2008 Holden Thorp
2008 – 2009 Bruce W. Carney, Acting
2009 – 2015 Karen M. Gil
2016 – 2019 Kevin M. Guskiewicz
2019 – 2020 Terry Rhodes, Interim
2020 – Present Terry Rhodes