Winningham Building recognizes faculty pioneer

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

If one person can be credited for launching the tradition of bringing prominent speakers to the UNC Charlotte campus, then it is Edyth Farnham Winningham, one of the University’s pioneering faculty members.

Winningham, born Jan. 26, 1900, in Arthur, N.D., earned a bachelor’s degree in modern languages from the University of North Dakota. She later earned a master’s in political science from UNC-Chapel Hill, reportedly the first woman in the state to complete the degree.

Beyond teaching high school in North Dakota and North Carolina, Winningham served as a faculty member at the University of Wyoming, the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina (now UNC Greensboro) and the UNC College Center in Wilmington (now UNC Wilmington). Her connection to UNC Charlotte dates back to its time as Charlotte College. Winningham joined the faculty in 1947, and she spent the next two decades infecting everyone around her with her passion for politics and international affairs.

Winningham frequently stated that one of her dreams was to bring prominent thought-leaders to the campus to “open up windows” for the institution’s students. Her persistence paid off in 1966 with the establishment of the University Forum Council, which sponsored an event each year to bring noted speakers to the campus to address crucial issues facing contemporary society. She chaired the council until spring 1971, despite retiring in 1967 as professor emeritus. According to University Archives, the final forum was held March 2, 1995. This 30th annual event focused on “Violence: Is Prevention the Key?”

Even after retiring, Winningham continued to lecture on world affairs and international education. She and her husband also established the James and Edyth F. Winningham Scholarship for undergraduate political science majors. 

In 1970, Winningham’s service to the greater Charlotte community was recognized by the League of Women of Voters. The organization singled her out for her instrumental role in forming closer ties between the University and the Charlotte community at large, and she was named WBT Radio’s Woman of the Year. In 1985, UNC Charlotte awarded her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. She died May 27, 1994.

The 10,507-square-foot classroom building that bears her name was constructed in 1965 by F.N. Thompson Inc.; the architectural firm Odell Associates designed the facility.

Atkins Library Special Collections contributed to this article.