CD Spangler Foundation Funds Chairs in Historical Literacy at UNC System Institutions

$8 million donation will create four new chairs at Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, NC A&T State University and University of North Carolina at Charlotte

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina — An $8 million gift from the CD Spangler Foundation has created four chairs in literacy across the state, the University of North Carolina system announced.

In December 2021, the Spangler Foundation pledged to establish endowed chairs at UNC institutions with the goal of ensuring reading fluency among North Carolina children. The Chairs are designed to recruit and retain nationally recognized scholars who will support the training of future teachers and in-service teachers while preparing future teachers of literacy.

“We are so grateful to the Spangler Foundation for their historic investment in early childhood literacy in our colleges of education,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “The four Distinguished Chairs will bring experts to North Carolina who will help train future teachers to ensure reading fluency in our youngest learners. I can’t imagine anything more important to our children, our schools and our future.

The $8 million investment is split equally between four institutions:

· Appalachian State University has established the Spangler Distinguished Professor of Early Child Literacy within its Department of Reading and Special Education in its Reich College of Education.

· East Carolina University has established the Spangler Distinguished Professor of Early Child Literacy in its College of Education.

· North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University created the Spangler Professor Emeritus of Early Childhood Literacy in its faculty of education.

· The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has created the Spangler Distinguished Professor of Early Child Literacy within its Cato College of Education.

These distinguished faculty will serve as a network of early literacy expertise to advance the UNC system’s current literacy initiatives in 15 educator readiness programs, engaging in outreach and dissemination of best practices. In addition, the faculty group will strengthen partnerships with North Carolina school districts to foster collaboration between teacher education programs and current teachers in the field.

Funds from the foundation could be used for faculty salaries, travel and research expenses, stipends for research assistants, special equipment, library materials, and programmatic support.

The late President CD Spangler Jr., who served the UNC system from 1986 to 1997, believed that literacy was the key to economic and social progress for all North Carolina residents.

“It is extremely important that the University accept responsibility for eliminating crippling illiteracy among our people,” Spangler said during his inaugural address. “It is not only cruel for us to allow illiteracy to exist, it is also reckless. Productivity, no matter how you measure it or for what purpose, is not possible without literate people. Because these teachers stretch across the state and into every home, I can’t imagine a more appropriate effort for the University.

Those words helped inspire the Spangler Foundation’s support for Chairs in Early Literacy, said Spangler Foundation Director Anna Spangler Nelson, who also serves on the UNC Board of Governors.

“North Carolina’s already extremely low reading skill levels have declined further during the pandemic,” Nelson said. “Our investment in this work is intended to increase the importance of early childhood literacy throughout North Carolina, improve the preparation of our teachers, and recognize our shared responsibility to do better for our children and their futures.”

The UNC system serves more than 244,000 students on 17 campuses, including North Carolina’s 16 public universities and the nation’s first public residential high school for academically gifted students. The UNC system is one of the strongest and most diverse higher education systems in the nation, with more than $1.8 billion in research spending and universities serving every region of the state. Affiliated organizations include UNC Health and PBS North Carolina, with its 12-station broadcast network.

Jack L. Goldstein