|James McGee Jr. ’40 and
his wife Jane of Hilton Head, S.C. have established the McGee Family
Undergraduate Research Fund, a $110,000 endowment to support student
"The McGees’ gift comes at a
crucial time for the new Office of Undergraduate Research as we make
research an integral part of Carolina’s undergraduate
experience," said Pat Pukkila, director of the Office of
Undergraduate Research and associate professor of biology. "We
will use the fund’s income to defray undergraduate research expenses
and to encourage publication and presentation of the results. Students
who join research teams in the sciences and social sciences or work
with original sources and archival materials in the humanities learn
to trust their disciplines."
The Office of Undergraduate Research
opened last fall in the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate
Excellence. The office coordinates and promotes student research.
Students in all majors can benefit from Carolina’s vast research
enterprise and apply it to areas of individual interest whether it’s
physics or philosophy.
Ryan Dickson, a December 1999 biology
honors graduate, attempted to isolate a mutation in a cell protein
through a research project. An understanding of such proteins could
lead to advances in cancer research.
"The undergraduate research
program has been one of the best experiences I have had in
college," said Dickson. "I have learned valuable lessons
about the hard work, patience and tenacity scientific research
The McGee fund’s beginnings can be
traced to a Hatteras Island property James McGee’s father, a textile
engineer and N.C. State University graduate, purchased in the early
1930s with a colleague.
Then a teenager, McGee recalled the
long drive from their home in Roanoke Rapids to the seaside property
at Hatteras. Road conditions stretched the trip to two days in what
today would take four hours.
"Then, it took nearly all day just
to reach Manteo from Roanoke Rapids," McGee said. "We’d
have to spend the night there, then drive down to Hatteras the next
McGee inherited the property and
donated it to Carolina. Proceeds of the sale helped establish the fund
for undergraduate research.
"Since I did my undergraduate work
at Carolina, we wanted to do something to benefit undergraduates,
especially for exceptional students who were interested in
research," said McGee.
McGee retired in 1989 after 45 years as
a general surgeon in Bluefield, W.V. After he completed his chemistry
degree at Carolina, he enrolled at the Medical College of Virginia,
graduating in 1944. The Carolina tradition in the McGee family began
when his uncle, Julian McGee ’23 (MED) came to Chapel Hill. Since
then, James McGee’s son, James E. McGee III ’69, and grandson
Charles Eugene McGee ’99 have continued the family’s Tar Heel
— Del Johnson
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