Dean W. Colvard

Chancellor from 1966–1978
You never know what you can do until you try.

Growing up in the lofty isolation of mountainous Ashe County, Dean W. Colvard was undistracted by frills. He learned early the discipline of work, responsibility, and doing the right thing. Those indelible lessons shaped the rest of his life and led him to become a visionary leader in higher education, first at NC State, then at Mississippi State and finally at UNC Charlotte. 

He first applied those lessons at Berea College in Kentucky, where he worked in the dairy to pay his tuition, room, and board. Fearing he wouldn't earn enough to meet his expenses, he saved every penny he could and wound up with money left to help educate his brothers and sisters. 

From Berea College he moved to newly established Brevard College, where he developed a work-study program that enabled men and women like himself to earn an education. 

He earned a master's degree at the University of Missouri and renewed an acquaintance with Martha Lampkin, the love of his life, who later became his wife and helpmate. He also learned that he preferred dealing directly with people and animals. 

He returned to the North Carolina mountains to run a test farm near Asheville and got a taste of politics, both partisan and personal. 

Researchers at N.C. State urged him to seek a Ph.D. and join their faculty. He earned a doctorate in animal husbandry at Purdue and moved to Raleigh to lead the dairy program--and soon the entire School of Agriculture at N.C. State. 

His success and skill at managing political pressure brought him to the attention of leaders at Mississippi State, where vigorous leadership was needed in the face of a smoldering civil rights revolution. He transformed Mississippi State, peacefully desegregated its student body, and allowed its men's basketball team to compete for the first time against teams of mixed races. 

He was called home to North Carolina to develop a new, urban university in education-starved Charlotte, where he laid a foundation large enough to sustain astonishing growth.  

Dean W. Colvard was admired by his colleagues for his earnest ambition, steadfast adherence to principles, and when challenged, a stubborn resolve to do the honorable thing.     

On June 28, 2007, Dean Wallace Colvard died at the age of 93. He is survived by his wife, Martha, who turned 100 years old on April 23, 2013, three children, four grandchildren, and four great grandchildren (all boys).


Dean Wallace Colvard, a native of Grassy Creek in rural Ashe County in the North Carolina mountains, became UNC Charlotte's first chancellor in April 1966, accepting the post from, then UNC System President William Friday. He served in the post until his retirement in December 1978.

During Dr. Colvard's 13-year tenure, enrollment at UNC Charlotte grew from about 1,700 students to more than 8,700 with annual degrees awarded from 82 to 1,606. He was a key leader in the transformation of Charlotte College to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Dr. Colvard's first charge was to oversee the accreditation of the university and the development of nearby University Research Park. Under his watch, UNC Charlotte's first residency halls were built and the university's first graduate programs were created. He transformed the campus from eight buildings to a site worth $54.5 million.

Dr. Colvard was also credited with laying out the strategy for the framework for UNC Charlotte. He created the master campus plan that envisioned a possible future enrollment of 20,000 students, which UNC Charlotte has since surpassed.

He developed a competitive athletics program and it was also during his tenure that the men's basketball team advanced to the Final Four in 1977.

Dr. Colvard is most notably recognized for the fame that he gained before coming to UNC Charlotte in 1963 when, as president of Mississippi State University, he defied school policy and ordered the men's basketball team to take the floor against an integrated Loyola University Chicago team.

After he retired, Dr. Colvard became involved in numerous activities, including Discovery Place, the School of Math and Science, the Southern Growth Policies Board and other educational initiatives.



B.S. – Berea College
M.A. – The University of Missouri
Ph.D. – Purdue University


  • Superintendent, N.C. Agricultural Research Stations, 1938-46
  • Professor and head, Department of Animal Science, North Carolina State College, 1947-53
  • Dean of Agriculture, North Carolina State College, 1953-60
  • President, Mississippi State University, 1960-66
  • Chancellor, UNC Charlotte 1966-78
  • Chancellor Emeritus, UNC Charlotte, 1979-2007



UNC Charlotte 1966-78:

  • Converted loosely organized departments of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering and Nursing into colleges and approved first deans
  • Created College of Architecture, Urban Institute, and International Affairs program
  • Launched formal fundraising program
  • Introduced broad range of master’s degree programs
  • Increased enrollment from 1,700 to 8,705 and annual degrees awarded from 82 to 1,606
  • Transformed campus from eight buildings to a site worth more than $54.4 million
  • Developed competitive athletics program anchored by men’s basketball
  • Played key role in creation of University City and University Research Park


Selected Honors

  • University Award (presented by UNC President C.D. Spangler), 1989
  • N.C. Public Service Award (presented by Gov. James Martin), 1990
  • UNC Charlotte Alumni by Choice Award, 2001
  • Echo Foundation Award Against Indifference, 2004