Chancellor’s residence named for talented, passionate community leader

Sara Bissell
Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bissell House is the official residence of UNC Charlotte’s chancellor, and its namesake, Sara Bissell, was devoted not only to her business and family but to the greater Charlotte community.

Dedicated on Nov. 18, 2004, Bissell House has been the venue for hundreds of campus and community events, with Chancellor Philip L. Dubois and his wife Lisa Lewis Dubois offering a gracious welcome to UNC Charlotte students, faculty, staff and visitors. Named the University’s fourth chancellor in early 2005, Dubois and his family became Bissell House’s first occupants.

The 7,500-square-foot facility features 12 rooms and six baths, and its location on aptly named Chancellor’s Place puts it in close proximity to the South Entrance of the University.

Plans for an on-campus residence for the chancellor began under the tenure of Chancellor Emeritus James Woodward. In September 2000, the UNC Charlotte Foundation received authorization from the Council of State to lease a three-acre tract of land on campus to build the house. Once the residence was completed, it became state property. Woodward lived in a University-owned home in the Morrocroft Estates neighborhood of Charlotte; it was sold with the proceeds retained by UNC Charlotte.

Sara Harris Bissell was president and owner of Sara H. Bissell Antiques, a division of Treasures Unlimited Inc. She invested countless hours in serving various community organizations to improve the quality of lives of others. She also traveled the world in search of antiques, which adorn many homes and institutions in the region.

From 1983 to 1989, Bissell served on the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees, and she provided leadership and direction in establishing the University’s Distinguished Service Award, which she received in 2006. She also devoted her talent and passion for interior design and decoration during the construction of the chancellor’s residence, later named in her honor.

In the greater Charlotte community, Bissell contributed to a number of causes. She was chair of the Heineman Medical Research Foundation, a director of Good Friends and a life trustee of the Charlotte Country Day School. She also was co-chair of the board of directors of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society and director of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, the Children’s Home Society, First Charlotte Bank and the McColl Center for the Visual Arts.

The granddaughter of former N.C. Gov. Cameron Morrison, Bissell was educated at Mt. Vernon Seminary in Washington, D.C., and Bennett Junior College in Millbrook, N.Y. There, she met future husband Howard “Smoky” Bissell.

 Sara Bissell’s parents, James and Angelia Harris, established the Harris Foundation, a trust to “promote public good by alleviating suffering, advancing knowledge and enlarging opportunities for the greatest number of people.” The Harris Alumni Center at Johnson Glen is named in their honor.

Bissell, who was born May 25, 1938, died Nov. 8, 2009.

Atkins Library Special Collections contributed to this article.

Photo (lower): Bissell House is under construction in this picture from 2003.