SOE News

William Self, former dean of Carolina's School of Education, dies at 90

Photo of William Self

William Self

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (Sept. 21, 2010) – William C. Self, dean of the School of Education from 1978 to 1982, died suddenly on Sept. 16 at his home in Wilmington, N.C. He was 90.

Self, who earned two graduate degrees from the School of Education, an M.A. degree in 1948 and an Ed.D. in 1956, devoted his career to addressing issues of educational equity.

Before becoming dean, Self served as superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System from 1967 to 1972, leading that system as it implemented racial desegregation policies.

“Dr. Self was a lifetime champion of the belief that all children deserve equal access to educational opportunity,” said School of Education Dean Bill McDiarmid. “He put that belief to work in a career devoted to breaking down barriers that threatened the extension of education’s benefits. We are all beneficiaries of his good work.”
Self was born in Newton, N.C. He served in the United States Navy during World War II, from 1941 to 1946. After obtaining his master’s degree at Carolina, he served in many posts as an educator, rising to be superintendent at Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System and then dean at Carolina.

He received the Alumni Achievement Award from the School of Education’s Alumni Association in 2001. When he presented the award, Edwin Dunlap, executive director of the N.C. School Boards Association, said: “Dr. Self’s personal convictions and integrity gave him the ability to be an inspirational leader at a turbulent time. He was the stabilizing force in the first metropolitan school system in the nation to undergo massive desegregation.”

The School of Education’s William Self Award honors Self’s career and his belief that every child in this country should have access to a quality education. The annual award goes to a doctoral student enrolled at the School of Education.
In 2004, Self was awarded a Razor Walker Award from the Watson School of Education at UNC-Wilmington. The award was made in recognition of the significant impact Self had made “through personal commitment and tenacity, on the lives and education of children in North Carolina.”

Surviving are his daughter, Leslie Odess and her husband, Mitch, of Wilmington and numerous nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends at the Chapel of the Holy Trinity Church in Hickory, N.C., on Thursday from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m., followed by a funeral service at 11 a.m. Interment will follow in Oakwood Cemetery in Hickory.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers memorial gifts may be made to School of Education Foundation, with a notation for the William Self Award. Gifts may be mailed to Wendy Borman, UNC-Chapel Hill, Campus Box 3500, Chapel Hill, N.C., 27599. For more information, contact Borman at: or 919-843-4536.