UNCSA commemorates 60th anniversary of “Dial For Dollars” campaign

UNCSA is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the two-day “Dial for Dollars” phone-a-thon that brought the school to Winston-Salem in conjunction with its annual “Days of Giving” taking place April 10-11.

Over two days, April 28-29, 1964, more than 200 community volunteers used 26 rotary telephones to raise nearly $1 million in an effort to demonstrate the support for bringing the school to the city, over five other N.C. cities vying for the school.

“As we approach our 60th anniversary, it is important to recognize the extraordinary support of our local community and state. Without this dedicated community of arts lovers and supporters, we literally would not be here today,” said UNCSA Chancellor Brian Cole. “This community support, alongside the visionary support of the N.C. General Assembly at our founding and throughout the past 60 years, demonstrates the extraordinary pride our leaders take in enriching our city and great state through the arts, as well as propelling North Carolina to the national stage. It is through their visionary leadership that North Carolina boasts a legacy of generations of successful careers across the spectrum of stage, screen and beyond."

Newspaper clipping from the Winston-Salem Journal 1964

Newspaper clipping from the Winston-Salem Journal 1964

Following the June 1963 legislation passed by the N.C. General Assembly to establish the N.C. School of the Arts with an appropriation of $325,000, a national advisory board of artists and state officials considered proposals from Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, Hillsborough and Winston-Salem as the location for the new school.

Then-Gov. Terry Sanford, with adviser and novelist John Ehle, developed the vision for an arts school in North Carolina. “I know you agree we are talking about a project which is of immense importance, a new step in the arts in America,” Sanford said. “People elsewhere are watching what we do with this school.”

With the enabling legislation, the state legislature expected that the community in which the school was located would supply the land and buildings, while the state would fund operating costs. State support of UNCSA continues today, solidified when it became part of the UNC System in 1971.

In order to proactively demonstrate community support for the school, Winston-Salem business leaders Smith Bagley and R. Philip Hanes Jr. spearheaded the effort to raise funds via the phone-a-thon, alongside corporate donations. In a demonstration of faith in the Winston community, Bagley and Hanes told donors the funds would be returned if the campaign did not succeed.

The $850,000 in funds raised during the phone-a-thon were used to renovate Gray High School into a site for the school, which opened in September 1965 with an enrollment of 229 students.

“It was like winning a Duke and Wake Forest football game…. By golly we decided we were going to win,” said UNCSA founder Ehle recalled in a speech cited in Leslie Banner’s “A Passionate Preference,” the definitive history of UNCSA. “This is going to be the capstone of Winston-Salem’s whole cultural life,” he concluded.

The National Advisory Board of Artists, appointed by Gov. Sanford, visited each proposed location over two days in April 1964. The board included dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille, actor Sidney Blackmer, dancer and choreographer José Limon, musical comedy writer Richard Adler, New York City Opera conductor and general manager Julius Rudel, composer (and later founding president) Vittorio Giannini, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green, composer and former Juilliard President Peter Mennin and James Christian Pfohl, founder of the Brevard school.

Days of Giving

The UNCSA Days of Giving campaign will take place April 10-11, 2024.

While in Winston-Salem, the committee visited the Hanes Community Center Theater, Wake Forest College, Reynolds Auditorium, Salem College and toured Gray High School. And they couldn’t help but see the front-page newspaper editorial with a headline that read: “Give Us the School,” placed by legendary Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel publisher and editor Wallace Carroll.

Following the visits and review of each city’s proposal, the committee announced, “This board is of the opinion … that the Winston-Salem site appears to be the most desirable for the school.” The statement continued, “after kicking this around back and forth with many angles, the presentation from Winston was not only the best as regarding housing for this project, but the money backing was remarkable, and we were chiefly influenced I think by the spirit of the citizens. Everyone seemed to respond …'This we want!'”

Agnes de Mille noted, “The entire community were all absolutely behind it, and fervently and intelligently enthusiastic.”

On Thursday, April 30, 1964, Page 1 news announced the new school of the arts would be located in Winston-Salem, by unanimous vote of the Advisory Board of Artists.

Upon releasing the decision Sanford stated, “I hope that all the places that competed will now work to make this school an institution for the whole state and for the whole South and for the whole country. The children after all will come from every place, and they are the purpose and substance of what we are about.”

With opportunities to support over 35 different areas and projects across campus including academics, scholarships, student organizations, the library and more, “Days of Giving” will pay tribute to the “Dial for Dollars” campaign of 1964 that won the school for Winston-Salem. Technology has changed – emails, texts and crowdfunding have replaced card tables, call sheets and phone banks – but the goal is still the same: to empower artists and elevate the arts at UNCSA. Visit give.uncsa.edu

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April 08, 2024