Fred Chappell’s poetic salutation

Fred Chappell, the former North Carolina poet laureate, has been asked to write many poems for special occasions. For the occasion of UNCG’s 125th Anniversary, the much-lauded professor emeritus composed this wonderful work of verse.

A Salutation to the Alma Mater in this Her Birth Year

spoken by the community of all students, past, present, and future


We gather to express all gratitude

For those enduring gifts that we received

   From the faithful nurturing Motherhood

   Of our University beloved.

This bright threshold of opportunity

Opened promiseful new worlds unknown

   To an eager community

   Whose pilgrimage had now begun.

We learned to study varied aspects of Nature,

To examine every thought as it occurs,

   To bear us each as a friendly creature

   On watchful terms with the universe.

Here we discovered the persons that we were,

And glimpsed the persons that we might become,

   Striding a measured thoroughfare

   Or marching to a different drum.

To grasp the blessings of liberty we turned

The pages of our Nation’s storied past,

   Finding that all the freedoms earned

   Arose from questions, first and last.

Founded to uphold the Women’s cause,

The College enabled us to elevate

   Those motives of imperfect laws

   That would abridge their true estate.

With Commerce, Science, Literature, and Art

Our College became our University,

   Stepping forward to embrace its part

   In our Nation’s history.

    Alma Mater, you we hail;

   Forever may your spirit thrive,

And may your valiant years strongly prevail

Long past your young One Hundred Twenty-five.

– Fred Chappell, professor emeritus

photo of Fred Chappell, professor emeritus

Fred Chappell

Fred Chappell is the author of 19 volumes of poetry, four story collections and eight novels. He has received, among other awards, the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, Aiken Taylor Award in Poetry, T.S. Eliot Prize, Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger from the Académie française, Thomas Wolfe Prize, John Tyler Caldwell Award and Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Prize. He was the Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 1997 to 2002 and received UNCG’s McIver Award in 2015.


His impact on the world of letters is seen not only in his books but in the many students who have gone on to successful writing and teaching careers. He taught at UNCG for more than 40 years and helped create the MFA in Writing program. A recipient of the UNC system’s highest faculty honor, the O. Max Gardner Award, Chappell held the Burlington Industries Professorship from 1987 to his retirement in 2004.