Chartered in 1789 and built in 1793, the University of North Carolina became the first public institute of higher education. The site of the University was marked only by a small chapel - New Hope Chapel Hill - and its surrounding community. Legislator and trustee William R. Davie was an integral part of gaining the charter for the University, and once the ground was broken, he took the lead in organizing the University.
The first building open on the UNC campus was Old East. It opened for students n January 1795 with the first student enrolled being Hinton James on February 12, 1795. The next two buildings added to the University were Person Hall and South Building. All three respective buildings are older than any other American state university building. The second state university did not begin classes until 1801 when a few students from nearby academies assembled under a large tree in Athens, Georgia for instruction. By then, four classes had already graduated at Chapel Hill, and there were to be three more before the first diplomas were issued in Georgia.
The University has always been in a state of constant change. From adding buildings and increasing enrollment to developing new schools and graduate programs, UNC has remained ahead of the curve throughout its years of existence being the first in many areas, such as developing a summer school. All areas of education were promoted at UNC from an early start. Medical and pharmaceutical buildings were established while the School of Library Science was developed as the first of its kind. The University was able to accomplish so much due to the generosity of alumni, student fees, and continuous donors such as the Kenan Family who, in addition to many other things, established scholarship funds and donated the football stadium to the University.
Since its establishment, UNC has proven to be one of the most successful universities in the country. The University has produced governors - not only for North Carolina but also for many other states - and countless other professionals, including cabinet members, clergymen, diplomats, engineers, geologists, judges, legislators, surveyors, teachers, as well as a President and a Vice President of the United States.