It was sad to learn over the weekend that Doris Betts, a former faculty member at Carolina and a celebrated writer, had died. The News & Observer had a nice feature on her in last Sunday’s paper. I didn’t know her well, but all of my encounters with her were memorable. I served on the Faculty Council when Doris was Chair of the Faculty. Things may have changed, but in those days the meetings were tedious. Doris’s opening remarks were the eagerly anticipated highlight of every meeting−I was never late. Her performances, and they were performances, were witty, cutting, charming and perfect in every way.
One year I was leading the Tar Heel Bus Tour and we stopped in Hillsborough to meet with Doris for a discussion about North Carolina writers. She was mesmerizing and the faculty members on the tour hung on her every word.
We talked after the session and she asked if I knew that she had once worked at the Institute of Government. Like many people I have encountered over the years, Doris was a proud former staff member. What did she do? For many years new recruits with the North Carolina Highway Patrol lived and trained at the Institute. Doris taught typing to the recruits during the evenings when her husband, Lowry, was a law student at Carolina. Mr. Coates always had an eye for talent.