Carolina’s ‘heart and soul’ Brenda Kirby retires after 40 years

Competency . . . Continuity . . . Class.

Those are the virtues Brenda Kirby brought to the chancellor’s office in South Building and the reasons six chancellors, 25 chairs of the Board of Trustees and 32 student body presidents came to rely on her like no other.

What everyone quickly discovered was that Kirby ran the show, as former Trustee Chair Timothy Burnett described during a recent tribute event to honor her.

She wore enough hats in South Building to fill a hat rack – as assistant to the chancellor, as secretary of the University and as assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees. She executed each role with an unflappable combination of dignity and grace.

Soon after he joined the board, Burnett said, someone pulled him aside and explained something he never forgot.

“He said, ‘You know, the sergeants run the Army and the chiefs run the Navy.’ I said, ‘Why are you telling me this?’

“And he said, ‘Well, Brenda runs the University.’”

She has always been the person people turned to when they needed something done, Burnett said. And no matter what time of day or night, no matter what the task, she always delivered. Always.

Chancellor Emeritus Paul Hardin said, “At no time in my memory did she leave something undone that came to her desk and was important to the University. Not one time.”

Kirby has served the University for 40 years. During her 32 years in South Building, Chancellor Holden Thorp said, she was the first in the door in the morning and the last one out at night. Her presence enveloped the building with the warmth and comfort of a security blanket – shared with and felt by all.

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