Denny Building honors former English professor

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

In 1965, a new campus facility designed by Odell Associates was completed at a cost of $569,000. Five years later, the building was dedicated in honor of Mary Rebecca Denny, chair of the UNC Charlotte English Department for 14 years.

Denny was born on Aug. 12, 1896, on the family farm near the small town of Red Springs, N.C. She attended Salem College and taught English in several public schools in eastern North Carolina after completing her bachelor’s degree in 1917. She went on to earn a master’s degree from Duke University and become associate professor of English at Queens College. She left Queens in 1946 to become the first full-time faculty member at the Charlotte Center of the University of North Carolina (now UNC Charlotte).

Although the Charlotte Center was created to serve in an emergency situation, Denny believed that it would eventually provide more than a temporary opportunity for its students. She was right as the Charlotte Center became Charlotte College, one of the first two-year community colleges in North Carolina, in 1949.

During the next 15 years, Denny completed an impressive list of initiatives, including the creation of the college newspaper, the literary magazine and the college catalog. When Charlotte College became a four-year institution, Denny relinquished her role as department head, but she remained active with the Curriculum Committee. She retired in 1964, with the distinction of being the institution’s first professor emeritus.

At the Oct. 9, 1970, dedication ceremony naming the largest classroom building in her honor, UNC Charlotte trustees enthusiastically paid tribute - “We transform glass, steel and stone into a monument to your spirit – forthright, steadfast, energetic and humanitarian. May this building forever serve as a reminder of your commitment to the ideals of sound scholarship, integrity and excellence.”

Following her retirement, Denny returned to her family home in Red Springs, where she resided until her death in 1979.

Atkins Library Special Collections contributed to this article.