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UNC-Chapel Hill trustees honor four with prestigious Davie Awards

Established by the trustees in 1984, the William Richardson Davie Award recognizes extraordinary service to the University or society.

Campus features from the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on November 10, 2020. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Established by the trustees in 1984, the William Richardson Davie Award recognizes extraordinary service to the University or society.


On Nov. 12 at a meeting of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, board chair Richard Stevens announced the 2020 recipients of the board’s highest honor, the William Richardson Davie Award.


The four recipients are: Philip Clay of Boston, Massachusetts; Joan Huntley of Chapel Hill, North Carolina (posthumous awardee); David Pardue of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina; and Steve and Debbie Vetter of Greensboro, North Carolina.


Established by the trustees in 1984, the William Richardson Davie Award was named for the Revolutionary War hero who introduced and won passage of a 1789 bill in the General Assembly to charter the University of North Carolina. Named for the man considered the father of UNC-Chapel Hill, the award recognizes extraordinary service to the University or society.


  • Phillip L. Clay, Ph.D., is an eminent scholar of urban life who served as chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A native of Wilmington, North Carolina, he graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with honors in 1968. After serving in Vietnam, he went on to earn a doctorate in city planning at MIT in 1975 and joined that institution’s faculty shortly thereafter. Clay is widely known for his work in housing policy and community development, particularly in the United States. In a pathbreaking 1987 study, he identified factors contributing to a decline in low-income housing and made recommendations that were implemented nationally through the Housing Act of 1990. He has chaired the Board of Directors of The Community Builders, the nation’s largest nonprofit developer of affordable housing, and is currently chair of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Clay served as a trustee of UNC-Chapel Hill (2007-2015) and led the committee that supported the University’s enhanced focus on promoting innovation. Prior to his work as a trustee, he was an inaugural member of the Faculty Development Advisory Group through the UNC Institute for the Arts & Humanities, which identifies and elevates leaders within the University. Clay’s honors include the UNC General Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Medal and an honorary doctorate from the UNC School of Law.


  • Joan Huntley, Ph.D., who died in 2019 at age 88, was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, and was a 1953 graduate of Mary Washington College. After working as a research assistant at the Harvard University School of Public Health and the Yale University School of Medicine, she pursued graduate studies at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Public Health (now the Gillings School of Global Public Health). In 1962, she earned a master’s degree in biostatistics; in 1970, she received a doctoral degree in epidemiology. For several years, Huntley taught and conducted research as an assistant professor at the school. Her career then took her to Washington, D.C., where she was a division director in the National Institute on Aging until retiring to Chapel Hill. Huntley served as president of the UNC School of Public Health Alumni Association and vice president of the UNC School of Public Health Foundation. In 1999, she was awarded the H.A. Tyroler Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of the substantial impact she had over her career in the field of epidemiology. She also was the author of numerous scientific articles published in professional journals. Huntley generously supported many areas at Carolina, including Carolina Performing Arts, the public health school, Ackland Art Museum, and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. In 2004, she established an annual visiting professorship in the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine in memory of her husband, Robert Ross Huntley, M.D.


  • David E. Pardue Jr., a 1969 Carolina graduate, is chairman of The Dacourt Group Inc., a real estate investment company. He was a UNC-Chapel Hill trustee from 1995 until 2003, during which time he led the Building/Grounds Committee and was the trustee representative for the revised master plan (1998-2001). He was a director of the UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation (1998-2001 and 2008-2016) and has been a director of UNC-Chapel Hill Real Estate Holdings since 2012. He also served on the library board from 2006 to 2015. Pardue and his wife, Becky, served on the first advisory board of the UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities (1989-2000), and both have worked in volunteer capacities for PlayMakers Repertory Company. The Pardues have contributed generously to areas across campus, including the UNC College of Arts and Sciences and University Libraries. David Pardue was a director for 27 years and chairman for three years of the THA Foundation, which provides financial aid to non-traditional-age students planning teaching careers; on the foundation’s behalf, Pardue worked closely with Texas A&M to develop its successful non-traditional program. He was a trustee of Elon University from 1985 until 1999, chairing Elon’s first significant capital campaign (1990-1993). Having played the tuba since age 12, Pardue has performed with the Elon College Community Orchestra, the Hilton Head Brass Quintet, the Savannah Wind Symphony and many other musical groups.


  • Steve and Debbie Vetter are both Carolina graduates from the class of 1978. Passionate supporters of the University, they have established the Steve and Debbie Vetter Military Families Scholars, a scholarship program honoring their fathers, both Marine Corps veterans with more than 20 years of service each, and the sacrifice military families make in serving our country. The Vetters committed $20 million to establish the program, which provides scholarship funding for Carolina Covenant students from military families. The commitment also launched the Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge, with the Vetters challenging all Tar Heels to create their own scholarships and raise an additional $20 million to support dependents of military families. The Vetters have also supported various student-athletes through the Rams Club and the Dean’s Fellows Program at Kenan-Flagler Business School. Steve is chair of the Executive Committee of the Rams Club and serves on the business school’s Board of Advisors. Steve is the former CEO and current chairman of the board of Ennis-Flint and an operating partner at CenterOak Partners, a private equity firm based in Dallas, Texas. He also sits on the boards of five privately held companies. Debbie serves UNC as a member of the Chancellor’s Philanthropic Council following a career managing portions of their real estate portfolio.