Former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt will be honored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) with its first-ever lifetime achievement award for public service for his work on behalf of children and families in North Carolina. The special ceremony will take place on May 23 at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.
“Governor Hunt’s vision for our state’s Smart Start initiative has helped improve the quality of early learning in all 100 counties in North Carolina,” said FPG Director Sam Odom. “His service has benefited children of all ages and all abilities.”
During his acceptance speech, the former governor will discuss the importance of high-quality care for the state’s youngest children.
“I believe the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute does the best work on child development in America,” said Hunt. “The institute was invaluable in the establishment of the North Carolina Smart Start program.”
Established under Hunt in 1993, the Smart Start initiative supports local nonprofit organizations across the state to help young children enter school healthy and prepared to succeed. Ron Haskins, senior fellow at Brookings Institution and former senior policy advisor to President George W. Bush, said Hunt relied on the field’s expertise to guide Smart Start.
“Research informed his decisions,” said Haskins, who serves on FPG’s executive leadership board. “Smart Start succeeded in part because of the FPG scientists who helped plan and lead it, and who evaluated it for a decade.”
During Hunt’s 16 years as the state’s chief executive, he created the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, chaired the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and worked with former FPG director Jim Gallagher and others to establish the North Carolina School of Science and Math. He also established a reading program in primary schools and put a full-time teaching assistant in every public classroom in grades one through three.
Odom said FPG is also commemorating its 50th anniversary by spearheading a groundbreaking conference May 24-25 that will bring experts to Chapel Hill to develop a strategic vision for the field. Major foundations across the state are backing the event.
“It’s an important and exciting time to work in early education and child development, especially in North Carolina,” said Odom. “With Smart Start and North Carolina’s pre-kindergarten program producing beneficial and persistent outcomes for young children, our state has the opportunity to remain a leader in early care and education.”
Hunt said North Carolina faced big challenges to make education the best it could be for all children in the state: “FPG’s work on early child care and education is crucial to our success.”
photo credit: Former FPG director Jim Gallagher (left) with then Governor Jim Hunt (right), ca. 1980.
About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 77 bachelor’s, 113 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty – including two Nobel laureates – staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s more than 308,000 alumni live in all 50 states and 150 countries. More than 167,000 live in North Carolina.