The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been educating teachers and other school personnel since its opening in 1795.

In February 1877, John T. Reynolds — one of two Black legislators from Halifax County — introduced a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly to create two “normal schools.” These normal schools — one proposed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and one at Shaw University — would train Black and White teachers, though only men at the time, to create stronger public schools. Reynolds delivered an impassioned plea, and the bill passed. In the summer of 1877, UNC-Chapel Hill hosted the first University summer school for teachers in America when a group from Guilford County attended a six-week normal school. Attended by teachers, townspeople, and students, this summer school was regarded by UNC President Kemp Plummer Battle as the greatest achievement of his administration.

Within a decade, the Department of Pedagogy was established at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1885, making Education one of only three professional schools at Carolina founded in the 19th century.

The School of Education was formally established as a professional school in 1913. Today, the School boasts over 22,000 alumni, the third-largest alumni base at UNC-Chapel Hill.


UNC School of Education Historical Timeline

1868     The North Carolina Constitution directs the University of North Carolina to educate teachers for the state’s schools.

1877     The first university summer school in America is held at the University of North Carolina for a group of teachers from Guilford County.

1885     The Department of Normal Instruction is established at the University, making education one of only four professional schools that began at Carolina in the 19th century. The name is changed to the Department of Education in 1907.

1896     The first Master of Arts degree in education is awarded to J.A. Moore.

1910     The High School Bulletin (renamed the High School Journal in 1918) is founded.

1913     Peabody Hall is completed with a gift from the George Peabody Educational Fund.

1913     The Department of Education becomes the School of Education.

1923     The first Doctor of Philosophy degree in the School of Education is awarded to Edwin McKoy Highsmith.

1927     Sallie B. Marks joins the School of Education faculty, becoming the University’s first female faculty member.

1950     The degree of Master of Education is authorized.

1952     The degree of Doctor of Education is authorized.

1953     The School of Education receives accreditation from the newly established National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.

1960     A new L-shaped addition of Peabody Hall is dedicated.

1962     Enrollment in the School of Education reaches a peak. More graduate degrees are awarded in education than in any other field at the University.

1966     The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Research and Demonstration Center is established.

1966     The Upward Bound program is established.

1974     Roberta Jackson joins the School of Education faculty and becomes the first tenured African-American woman in the University’s Division of Academic Affairs.

1981     The Center for Mathematics and Science Education is founded.

1983     Frank Brown becomes the first African-American dean of a doctoral-granting professional school at UNC.

1985     The Alumni Council for the School of Education is formed.

1986     The School of Education Foundation is created.

1988     A Teaching Fellows program is established at UNC-Chapel Hill to attract talented high-school graduates into the teaching profession.

1989     The Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education is founded.

1995     The School of Education ranks among the top schools of education in the United States as U.S. News & World Report initiates its national rankings.

1997     LEARN NC is created.

1998     Madeleine R. Grumet becomes the first woman dean of the School of Education.

2004     The Carolina Center for Educational Excellence opens.

2004     The National Research Center on Rural Education Support is established.

2010     The School of Education celebrates its 125th anniversary.

2012     The School of Education launches the Minor in Education.

2014     The School of Education Foundation receives its largest gift ever — $4 million — from the estate of Justeen and Donald Tarbet. The gift provides funding for faculty development.

2015     The School of Education launches a new Master of Arts in Educational Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship – one of the first degrees of its kind in the U.S.

2016     Peabody Hall’s Room 104 (now 1040) was renamed the Gerald Unks Lecture Hall. Unks taught more than 22,000 students in that room during his 45 years as a professor.

2016     Fouad Abd-El-Khalick joins the UNC School of Education as dean in July.

2017     The School of Education Foundation merges with the UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation. The School of Education Foundation Board of Directors becomes the Board of Visitors.

2018     The School of Education is among five institutions selected for the new N.C. Teaching Fellows program.

2020     The new Human and Organizational Leadership Development undergraduate program is approved by the UNC System’s Board of Governors.

2021    Sherick Hughes became the first Black male to hold a School of Education endowed professorship when honored as the Samuel M. Holton Distinguished Professor.

2022     The School of Education, in partnership with the Person County School District and other UNC-Chapel Hill units, launches the Carolina Community Academy in Roxboro, N.C.

Previous Deans and Department Heads

1885-1910 Department of Normal Instruction (becomes Department of Education in 1910)

NOTE: During this period, faculty provided leadership but there was no formal department head.

Nelson B. Henry, Professor of the Science and Art of Teaching, 1885-87
Edwin A. Alderman, Professor of the History and Philosophy of Education, 1893-96
Horace Williams, Professor of Philosophy; Interim Professor in the Department of Normal Instruction, 1896-98
M.C.S. Noble, Professor of Pedagogy, 1898-
Nathan W. Walker, Professor of School Organization, 1905-
Harry Woodburn Chase, Professor of the Philosophy of Education, 1910-

1913-32 School of Education

M.C.S. Noble, Dean, 1913-21
Nathan W. Walker, Acting Dean, 1921-32

1932-48 Department of Education, College of Arts and Sciences

Nathan W. Walker, Head, 1932-35
M.R. Trabue, Head, 1935-37
Arnold K. King,  Acting Head, 1937-38
Harl R. Douglass, Head, 1938-40
Carson Ryan, Head, 1940-48

1948-present School of Education

Guy B. Phillips, Dean, 1948-53
Arnold Perry, Dean, 1953-64
John C. Otts, Acting Dean, 1965-66
Norton L. Beach, Dean, 1967-73, 1974-76
Neal Tracy, Acting Dean, 1973-74
Ira J. Gordon, Dean, 1977-78
William C. Self, Acting Dean, 1978-80; Dean, 1980-82
James L. Paul, Acting Dean, 1982-83
Frank Brown, Dean, 1983-90
Donald J. Stedman, Dean, 1990-96
William I. Burke, Interim Dean, 1996-98
Madeleine R. Grumet, Dean, 1998-2003
Fenwick English, Interim Dean, 2003
Thomas James, Dean, 2003-07
Jill Fitzgerald, Interim Dean, 2007-08
Williamson McDiarmid, Dean, 2009-2016
Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, Dean, 2016-present