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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.

4 thoughts on “Doris Betts

  1. Too many decades ago to mention, I had the priviledge of working with Doris Betts when I worked in the English Department. Doris was a life-size character, robust in every interaction. She was honest, sincere, caring, and respectful of others, regardless of their role. Sometimes you could get a little star struck being surrounded by the likes of Bland Simpson, Charles Zug,and Daphne Athas,to name a few. Doris had a wit and a charm that managed to captivate you just a bit more than others. Because I had lived most of my life in Chapel Hill, Joe Flora, the Department Chair at the time, once told me I did not live in the real world. Maybe not, but being in a world with Doris Betts was a pretty good place to be.

  2. Mike,
    I also have fond memories of her. When I was an undergrad, we served together on a task force that resulted in the freshman summer reading program that exists today. I recall thinking I wanted to be like her: witty, sharp and warm. And, I’ll always hold Dr. Flora in high regard…he generously gave me the only “A+” of my college career!

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