The first gift

Private support has been critical to the nation’s first public university since our founding.

In 1789, Col. Benjamin Smith, who later would be North Carolina’s 16th governor, gave 20,000 acres of land in western North Carolina (now Tennessee) to be sold as a source of funds for the newly chartered University.

And three years later, in 1792, Chapel Hill was selected over 13 other sites to host the University. The local landowners’ generosity—an offer of 1,386 acres and roughly $1,600 cash—sealed the deal.