Monday, July 24, 2006

Doug and Darcy Orr's legacy

When he was a vice chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and professor of geography, Doug Orr earned a reputation for serious scholarship, public engagement, lively teaching, appreciation for the arts, an affinity for what folks now call roots music, a deep-seated concern for the environment and a love of North Carolina history and culture.
In 1972 he and several colleagues produced the Metrolina Atlas, a groundbreaking work about the region around Charlotte. Then in 1975 he and his colleagues Alfred Stuart and Jim Clay produced the North Carolina Atlas: Portrait of a Changing Southern State. Those are among the reasons why he was asked to become president of Warren Wilson College in the Swannanoa Valley east of Asheville in 1991.
During his time at Warren Wilson, he and his spouse Darcy became the public face of that lovely little college. They boosted its traditional commitment to work, study and service (students who attend Warren Wilson must work at a campus job that defrays part of the cost, and must perform community services before they can graduate), raised an already heightened environmental consciousness to new levels and in the process rebuilt much of the campus. (Disclosure: I know about this because my daughter went to school there and I’ve been on the board of visitors there for several years.)
It’s a gorgeous place unlike any other college I’ve visited. Orr and Stuart also co-edited a new volume, North Carolina Atlas: Portrait of a Southern State this is invaluable to understanding North Carolina’s environment, its history and culture.
Doug Orr retired recently as president, and the college has done something pretty nice: it has named its new admissions and college relations building the Doug and Darcy Orr Cottage.
It’s not just that the cottage is lovely – built with native stone and lumber milled from trees grown on campus. It’s unique -- the first such college or university structure in North Carolina to attain the designation of a Gold Certified Building under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. That’s the pinnacle of planning and construction for the green building movement. For more on this and a picture of the cottage, click here.

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