Staff Spotlight: Herbert Lee Davis
» UNC Office of Undergraduate Admissions
By Hope Baptiste
Herbert Lee Davis ’73, ’80, ’88
“I have been so privileged to have the chance to determine the direction of so many people’s lives,” he said. “Even when a prospective student didn’t get the desired result, it was always an honor to talk to them and help them develop a strategy for achieving their goals.”
Davis started his academic career as a zoology instructor and then became an academic advisor. When he joined UNC’s Office of Undergraduate admissions in 1978, he knew he was where he was meant to be.
During his tenure, Davis was instrumental in significantly increasing the recruitment and retention of minority students to Carolina. Particularly adept at articulating the importance of evaluating potential students within the context of their own circumstances, Davis’ confidence and ability to gauge potential often made the difference in whether a student would become a Tar Heel—or not.
“Every day brought a new and exciting adventure that I never considered work, but rather a personal mission to make minority students more aware of their opportunities, and encourage them to make the most of them,” he said.
Known for his calming demeanor, Davis has counseled about as many parents as students. “It’s certainly difficult when you have to say ‘No,’ but I’ve always welcomed opportunities to help all families, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Davis said. Having come from rural North Carolina himself, Davis earned three UNC degrees, so he knows something about making the most of an opportunity.
“Every day brought a new and exciting adventure that I never considered work, but rather a personal mission to make minority students more aware of their opportunities, and encourage them to make the most of them.”
» Herbert Lee Davis
“It’s up to the students to challenge themselves to reach their goals, and it’s our job as alumni to help them,” he said. “These kids are smart enough to be competitive in any environment; they just need to know that their hard work will, indeed, pay off in the long run.”
Davis credits his own background for the ability to identify, understand and encourage students to excel. “Having walked the same path as so many of the students I work with and their parents, I want to set that example and I can say, ‘If I can do it, you can do it,’” he said.
He is quick to point out that his retirement in no way marks the end of his relationship with his alma mater. After some extensive biking, hiking, cycling and other assorted outdoor activities, he intends to re-invest his time and talents in the University to once again broaden UNC’s reach, this time to those former students he is proud to now recognize as “fellow alumni.”