One man’s part in enriching Carolina

Darryl J. Gless has held many titles over the course of his distinguished career. Each served in some way to open a new window through which to view the world – and widen his place within it.

As a Rhodes scholar, for instance, he joined the same Rhodes class as Bill Clinton. He became a “F.O.B” – or Friend of Bill – a title that would gain cachet years later when his old friend moved to the White House. Winning the Rhodes also reinforced his sense of obligation to do what he was asked to do for his communities – a key reason why he said yes in 1994 when President Clinton asked him to serve on the National Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Gless was in a different Oxford college than Clinton, but he spent enough time with him to notice Clinton’s penchant for turning almost any experience into inspiration for changing the world.

On a smaller scale, the same could be said about Gless, a respected scholar of the works of Shakespeare and Spenser.

Chancellor Holden Thorp has said that perhaps no other person has done more to broaden and enrich the intellectual climate at Carolina during the past three decades.

From 1987 to 1992, Gless oversaw the evaluation of the undergraduate curriculum as associate dean for general education. For the next three years, he directed the University-wide self-study for reaccreditation, which focused on enhancing Carolina’s intellectual climate.

From 1997 to 2005, as senior associate dean for the fine arts and humanities, he guided the development of the First Year Seminar Program, considered one of the best of its kind in the nation.

He also co-authored a proposal that produced the Robertson Scholars Program, which for the past decade has allowed outstanding students from Carolina and Duke to enjoy the academic, cultural and service opportunities at both institutions.

In the classroom, his influence has been no less important.

Along the way, Gless earned a Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. “That award intensified my already deep commitment to enabling all my students to think imaginatively, to question, to value ideas and language, and to speak and write well,” Gless says.

In 1991, he co-edited a volume of essays on “The Politics of Liberal Education” that helped to refocus his scholarly interest in improving education by increasing racial, ethnic and other kinds of diversity in university classrooms.

“One of the things I often tell my students is that we always learn most when we try out ideas that contradict our own ingrained assumptions,”Gless says.