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This Day in the History of the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


December 11, 1789
The North Carolina General Assembly chartered a degree-conferring institution and established a Board of Trustees to oversee the school. The University of North Carolina, however, would not open its doors to students until January 15, 1795.
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December 18, 1789
Colonel Benjamin Smith donated warrants for 20,000 acres of land in what would become the state of Tennessee to the recently chartered university. Proceeds from the sale of the land went to support the institution during its early years, and, in recognition of this gift, the University named a campus building after him. Completed in 1851, Smith Hall, which is now known as Playmakers Theatre, was formerly used as a library and once a year for the commencement ball.
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December 18, 1789
Meeting in Fayetteville, the University's Board of Trustees convened for the first time.
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December 21, 1789
The University acquired its first piece of scientific equipment--a compass. The object proved to be a source of contention when a dispute arose over whether the State or a private party owned the item.
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December 22, 1789
William Richardson Davie sponsored and pushed through the General Assembly the University Endowment Act (better known as the "Escheats Act"). The law vested in the Board of Trustees "all monies due and owing the public of North Carolina either for arrearages under the former or present government" up to January 1, 1783. Along with gifts and tuition payments, the escheats monies would prove to be one of the University's few sources of income for close to one hundred years.
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