BOSTON—Extraordinarily accomplished in both the private and public sectors, HBS alumnus Dick Spangler was the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree this morning at Harvard University’s 362nd Commencement exercises. In 1988, he received Harvard Business School’s Alumni Achievement Award, the highest recognition the School can bestow. The entire Harvard Business School community extends its congratulations to Mr. Spangler; his wife, Meredith; and their entire family. The Harvard University Gazette provided a brief overview of his life in today’s special edition:
As a former president of both the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Harvard’s Board of Overseers, C. Dixon Spangler Jr. holds the unique distinction of having shaped the course of America’s oldest public and private universities. As former Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers said of him, “He has a deep devotion to education and a remarkable insight into how universities work.”
Spangler was born in Charlotte, N.C., in 1932. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1954, he received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School (where his name is now familiar to the hundreds of students who study and socialize in his namesake building, the Spangler Center). He returned to his native state to enter the family businesses of real estate, construction supplies, and banking. He ran a number of companies, most notably the Bank of North Carolina, his father’s ailing bank, which he turned around and merged with NCNB (now Bank of America) in 1982.
Business, however, was merely Spangler’s first act, one that set the stage for his successful leadership in higher education. He served as chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Education from 1982 to 1986. As UNC’s president from 1986 to 1997, he boosted enrollment and faculty funding while prioritizing educational quality and affordability. Since his retirement from the university, he has donated millions to UNC, Harvard, and Teach for America.
From 1998 to 2004, he was a member of Harvard’s Board of Overseers, and served as the board’s president from 2003 to 2004. In his spare time, Spangler enjoys repairing grandfather clocks.