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by Allayne Thomas

Interacting with those different from ourselves is one of the most important individual steps people can take to help the current racial tension in the nation, Barry Saunders, a News & Observer columnist, told the 2016 Chuck Stone Scholars in his keynote address on Sunday.

His words were fitting as the Chuck Stone Program for Diversity in Education and Media, hosted by the UNC School of Media and Journalism, is done in the legacy of Chuck Stone, one of the leading trailblazers and proponents of interacting with those different from you.

Stone, who died in 2014 at age 89, left behind an incredible list of accolades: excellence in teaching; six honorary doctorates; Distinguished Service in Journalism Award; National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Lifetime Achievement Award; and others.

But more than that, he left behind a spirit of scholarship, progress, integrity and social consciousness in everyone he met.

10thanniversaryGroupOn the tenth anniversary of the Chuck Stone Program, 12 students were brought from across the nation and North Carolina to learn, grow, and challenge themselves among amazing faculty and resources. The program emphasizes diversity, but the kind of diversity that Stone stressed with his life work: a diversity of not only race or socioeconomic status, but of gender, thought, and more.

Hanna Wondmagegn, one of the scholars, said, “It became apparent to me that I wasn’t just going to learn skillsets: I was going to be gaining perspectives.”

Associate professor Dr. Terence Oliver and his wife Dr. Greta Oliver, a dynamic duo, use their position to uphold and continue the work and life mission of Chuck Stone. With plans to continue the program’s success, Dr. Greta Oliver said their goal was not any monetary or social reward but “to be able to support and make a difference in the lives of students.”

She certainly has accomplished that, as 2011 Chuck Stone Scholar Paris Alston describes her experience with the program being that of a family.

“Chuck Stone is just always a constant reminder to practice diversity and to aim for diversity in everything that you do,” Alston said.

Stone will be remembered as an accomplished journalist and scholar; as one of the founding presidents of NABJ; and as an influential educator to those who never had the chance to know him personally.

However, for the many he touched, he is remembered as a welcoming, humble man. Jan Yopp, a former professor and current dean at UNC-CH who co-directed the Freedom Forum Rainbow Institute with Chuck Stone in the ‘90s, said, “When he was a professor here, he always had an open door.” Chuckling, she even went on to say that he would be thrilled and a little embarrassed about how successful the program has been.

Wondmagegn said,“[I’m] definitely going to be leaving as a better person and more aware of things in the world.” This program, and all the work that Stone did throughout his teaching career, has looked to encourage kids to push themselves to engage the world more deeply and dynamically than before.

“I believe that diversity is important in all aspects of society,” said 2016 Chuck Stone Scholar John Anderson. “I want to really take Chuck Stone’s message and uplift that message through every step of my life.”