Author Topic: Charlotte - Area Hero, Bonnie Cone, dead at 95  (Read 49 times)

Trauma-san

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Charlotte - Area Hero, Bonnie Cone, dead at 95
« on: March 09, 2003, 11:47:47 PM »
In Charlotte, the local university is the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, it's where I graduated from.  50 years ago, it didn't exist, but a local teacher, Bonnie Cone, had a belief that Charlotte should have college level classes.  She was one of the first professors at the college classes held at Central High, in the evenings in 1949, and would teach all day at high school, then teach night classes to returned war vets, under the g.i. bill fund.  After two years, the government axed the local program... everybody thought the college classes would tank, but she set up office in the basement of the high school, and relentlessly lobbied for the local government to fund the college.  Finally, she got the city county government to cough up 10,000 to continue the classes at the school.

The UNC board of directors decided after the 10,000 dollars ran out, that they would shut the school in charlotte.  Remember, this was all being ran out of a high school downtown... well, by then, she had been given the title of director of the school, and rallied the city to approve a 2 cent tax, to fund the school.  Beyond all expectations, it was passed, and the school became "Charlotte College".  

Through the 50's, it held evening classes in the high school, and Bonnie helped many students pay their tuition, if they couldn't afford the $25.00 a class it cost.  She started a push to make it a 4 year university from a 2 year school, and eventually got it turned around.

In 1957 she held a fundraiser to buy land in north charlotte for the school to have it's own building.  With local backing, she had 3 buildings built on the new campus, including a large belltower; the local legislation lobbied for the state to make it the fourth campus of the University of North Carolina, and on March 2nd, 1965, it became UNC-Charlotte.  The belltower rang 25 times for each member of the legislation, and 2 times for Bonnie.

In 1973, she reached 65 years old, and was forced to retire, due to the universities mandatory retirement age.  Not wanting to be idle, she joined the UNCC foundation, raising money to expand the school, until forced to retire again at age 70.  She stayed active at functions every year, and even attended my personal graduation commencement ceremony... she sat in a wheelchair, 94 years old, in the back of the coliseum, and when the chancellor announced her presence, she received a standing ovation that day, like she did most days she was on campus.

In 1990, when the campus turned 25, it rang the same bell 25 times, for the mecklenburg delegates, and twice for Bonnie; she passed away saturday.  Funeral plans are for this weekend, where they'll ring the bell twice in her honor.  

This one woman, is single-handedly responsible for University City, one of the biggest portions of Charlotte... you've got the school, which is huge now, and an entire 10 mile radius that is filled with homes, shops, malls, restuaraunts, etc. all built after the university was built on the land she bought; at the time, there was nothing within 20 miles of it, now the entire area is centered around the campus.  The whole campus, and the hundreds of buildings on it, are the result of her life's work.  That's mind boggling that one person could have that kind of legacy to leave behind; basically a whole city "University City" exists because of her.  These are just a few of the campus buildings:































 

infinite59

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Re:Charlotte - Area Hero, Bonnie Cone, dead at 95
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2003, 12:39:09 AM »
That's quite a story.  Do you have any personal memories of her?
 

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Re:Charlotte - Area Hero, Bonnie Cone, dead at 95
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2003, 01:15:56 AM »
No, I didn't know her.