From its present location in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union, the 11-year-old BCC
has instituted an array of initiatives fostering learning outside the classroom and across
"We are probably the most diverse entity on
campus, and we bring a global perspective to subjects that often are not considered in
such terms," said Dr. Gerald Horne, director of the center and the Institute for
For example, the BCC hosts an annual international conference that
so far has brought to campus scholars from Japan and Germany who specialize in
African-American studies. And one of Carolina's most outstanding programs of public
service is Communiversity, which pairs UNC-CH undergraduates with underserved, often
troubled, area youth in mentoring and cultural enrichment activities.
The Okuns said the BCC's success under Horne's guidance and
leadership prompted their gift.
"Gerald's breadth of knowledge and experience worldwide is a
phenomenal resource on this campus," Daniel Okun said. "His leadership has been
He said the new building represents an opportunity to expand the
BCC's programs, bringing African-Americans, their culture and history into all phases of
University life. He added that he hopes the building also will serve as a resource for
development of a graduate program in African-American studies at Carolina.
"North Carolina is rich in population, history and cultural
contributions from African-Americans," he said. "Yet we have to depend on
Northern universities for graduate work in this field."
Of half a dozen graduate programs in African-American studies in the
country, only one is in the South. "My goal is to convince my colleagues that a BCC
building and a graduate program in African-American studies will impact on all of the
social sciences on campus," he said. "Everyone will benefit."
To date, $4.1 million in cash and pledges has been raised for the
$7.5 million building, which will house the BCC, the Institute of African-American
Research and the Upward Bound program. The 40,000 square-foot building will include
classrooms, a library, art gallery, media center, performance space and meeting rooms.
To honor Horne, the Okuns are dedicating their gift to W.E.B. Du
Bois and his wife, Shirley Graham. Horne's first book was on Du Bois, the early
20th-century scholar, author and co-founder of the NAACP. Horne now is writing a book
about Graham's life.
Okun began his teaching career at UNC-CH in 1952, serving as faculty
chair from 1955 to 1973. During his 18 years as chair, the department of environmental
sciences and engineering in the School of Public Health grew from a small, narrowly
focused sanitary engineering program with three full-time professors to a broad-based
environmental sciences and engineering program with some 25 faculty members. Okun
officially retired in 1982 but remains active in departmental and professional activities.
Faculty colleagues and former students launched a campaign in 1994
to fund an endowed professorship in recognition of Okun's contributions to the department
and the field of environmental engineering as a whole. State matching funds of $167,000
secured this winter carried the campaign past the $600,000 mark, meeting the University's
$500,000 requirement for an endowed professorship.
The school hopes to raise $1 million or more through the continuing
campaign, with the first Okun Distinguished Professor to be appointed for the 2000-01
by Karla Gower '99