Arthur Levine, one of America’s leading experts on higher education, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree when UNC Asheville holds its May 2014 Commencement. Southern Jewish historian Eli Evans also will receive an honorary degree, and civil rights pioneer Franklin McCain will be honored posthumously. The ceremony takes place at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 10, on the UNC Asheville campus.
Arthur Levine is one of America’s leading experts on higher education and the way the beliefs and needs of college students have changed over generations. The author of many books, including his most recent, Generation on a Tightrope: A Portrait of Today’s College Student, Levine also has written numerous commentaries for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Education Week and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
For Generation on a Tightrope, Levine and co-author Diane Dean analyzed surveys and interviews with students and officials at 31 campuses. Levine told The New York Times that today’s students “come with real digital skills … are interested in global issues and … deal with diversity better than any generation before them.”
Levine currently serves as president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation which, since its founding in 1945, has awarded fellowships to 14 Nobel laureates, 16 Pulitzer Prize winners, 35 MacArthur Fellows, hundreds of other distinguished individuals, and “everyday classroom heroes.” The foundation’s current signature program, the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, aims to help close the pervasive achievement gap between Americans, by race and income.
Levine also has held leadership positions in some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning, including Columbia University, where he was president and professor of education at Teachers College. At Harvard University, he served as chair of the higher education program, chair of the Institute for Educational Management and senior lecturer at the Graduate School of Education.
Historian Eli Evans, a native of Durham, has chronicled the Jewish experience in towns throughout the American South, and in so doing, has shed new light on the Southern experience.
Evans’ classic, The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South, has been continuously in print since its publication in 1973, with updates in 1997 and a second edition in 2005 by University of North Carolina Press.
Taking readers inside the nexus of southern and Jewish histories from the earliest immigrants to the present day, The Provincials has drawn praise from sources as diverse as Southern novelist Pat Conroy who called it a “masterpiece,” and the late Israeli leader Abba Eban, who said of Evans, “The Jews of the South have found their poet laureate.”
Among Evans’ other works are Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate, a biography of the Confederacy’s Secretary of State; and The Lonely Days Were Sundays: Reflections of a Jewish Southerner, a collection of essays.
Evans is a graduate of Yale Law School, a U.S. Navy veteran, and once served as a speechwriter for President Lyndon Johnson. Now a resident of New York, Evans is president emeritus of the Charles H. Revson Foundation, which operates grant programs in urban affairs, Jewish life and education.
While just a freshman at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T), Franklin McCain (1941-2014) became a civil rights pioneer as a member of the “Greensboro Four.” He went on to become a chemist, a member of the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, a trustee for North Carolina Central University, and a member of the UNC Board of Governors.
On Feb. 1, 1960, McCain and three fellow freshmen at N.C. A&T began a sit-in at the then-segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro. This protest and the resulting publicity contributed to an intensification of the sit-in movement that helped desegregate public facilities across the South.
McCain studied biology and chemistry at N.C. A&T, and after earning his bachelor’s degree, became a chemist, working for the Celanese Corporation in Charlotte for 35 years. McCain was active with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and chaired the organization’s North Carolina regional committee. He and his late wife, Bettye Davis McCain, are survived by three sons, Franklin Jr., Wendell and Bert.
McCain was Board of Governors’ liaison to UNC Asheville. At a talk to students in March 2011, McCain described the values he was raised with, which included respect for the Constitution and the Ten Commandments, respect for elders and the importance of superior grades. But when something needs to be fixed, he advised, “Don’t ever wait for permission to start a revolution. … Be ashamed to die before you make an indelible impression on your community and the region where you live.”
UNC Asheville’s May 2014 Commencement will be held on the Quad, or in case of inclement weather, in the Kimmel Arena. For more information, visit the commencement web page.