Students walking past the Old WellThe University of North Carolina opened its doors to students on January 15, 1795 as the first state university. New Hope Chapel (now Chapel Hill) was chosen for its central location as the site of the University. Hinton James, the first student to enroll, arrived in February 1795. By March 1 the University had 41 students and 2 professors. Seven students, including Hinton James, received their diplomas in 1798, becoming the first graduating class of the University. Authorized by the State Constitution in 1776, the University was chartered in 1789, and was the only public university in the nation to award degrees to students as early as the eighteenth century.

Women were first admitted to the University in 1897. However, admittance was permitted only for bona fide residents of Chapel Hill in graduate courses or as upper level transfers. The first five women to enroll were Mary Shackleford Nee McCrae, Cecye Roanne Dodd, Lulie Watkins, Sally Walker Stockard, and Dixie Lee Bryant. In 1898, Sally Walker Stockard received her bachelor’s degree becoming the first woman graduate of the University. In 1917, Lillie Dale Whitaker, Mary Louise Stover, Mary Louisa Cobb, and Nell Abbie Patterson Pickard enrolled as the first female first-year students.