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The College is the oldest and largest academic unit at UNC-Chapel Hill and dates back to 1795.

CREDIT: Southern Historical Collection
CREDIT: Southern Historical Collection

The modern-day College of Arts and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 Ellen Rhodes, Interim

2020 – 2022        Terry Ellen Rhodes

2022 – Present    James W.C. White