‘An Evening with Harvey Gantt’ headlines Niner Nation King Week 2024

Categories: Diversity Tags: Academic Affairs, Diversity

On Thursday, Jan. 18, from 5 to 6 p.m., UNC Charlotte will welcome distinguished Charlotte architect, civil rights leader and public servant Harvey B. Gantt as its featured guest for Niner Nation King Week’s signature event.

During “An Evening with Harvey Gantt, Civil Rights Leader and Charlotte’s First Black Mayor,” Gantt will discuss in a Q&A-format presentation in Cone University Center’s McKnight Hall his life, leadership and legacy, their connection to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s messages and their relevance for navigating troubled times. The conversation, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, will be moderated by UNC Charlotte Honors College student Serena Kamdem. The event is free and open to the public; registration is required.

Vision and impact

Known foremost as a trailblazing architect, Gantt, who was the first Black student at Clemson University, earned a bachelor’s degree in that discipline in 1965. From 1965 to 1968, he interned at Odell in Charlotte, the first Black architect the firm had ever hired. He received a master’s degree in city planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970 and the next year became a founding partner of Gantt Huberman, a firm that pioneered the blending of urban planning and architecture. Gantt Huberman developed a number of key buildings in Charlotte, among them the Charlotte Transportation Center, TransAmerica Square, ImaginOn, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and the Johnson C. Smith University Science Center.

Gantt’s local impact deepened when he entered politics in 1974, serving first on the Charlotte City Council for nine years, followed by his election in 1983 to the first of two terms as the city’s first Black mayor. While on the city council, he encouraged voting among Black communities and reformed the process for electing council members. On a federal level, Gantt served as chairman from 1995-2000 of the Capital Planning Commission, the federal government’s central planning agency for the National Capital Region.

A friend to Niner Nation

Over the years, the Gantt family has made its mark on UNC Charlotte in a number of significant ways:

  • Gantt Huberman designed, in partnership with KieranTimberlake, the award-winning Dubois Center at UNC Charlotte Center City, which opened in 2011.
  • Cindy Gantt ‘68 ‘81, served on UNC Charlotte’s Board of Trustees from 2003-07. She moved to Charlotte from Clemson with Gantt after their marriage in 1964, transferring to UNC Charlotte to complete an undergraduate degree in applied mathematics, and later returned to earn a degree in accounting. Until her retirement, she was the business manager of East Towne Manor, an assisted living facility in Charlotte.
  • After the April 30, 2019, campus shooting at UNC Charlotte, Gantt served on the Niner Nation Remembrance Commission’s memorial jury, a group of architectural and public art professionals appointed to make recommendations to then-Chancellor Philip L. Dubois regarding the design for a permanent campus memorial to honor those who lost their lives and were injured on that day. The memorial jury’s selection, Constellation Garden, was installed and dedicated in spring 2023.

Well-deserved recognition

In 1981, Gantt received the American Institute of Architects North Carolina Award of Excellence in Architecture and in 2017 the AIANC Gold Medal. In 1987, he was named to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, the AIA’s highest membership honor.

In 2009, to recognize his many achievements and contributions to Charlotte, the city’s Afro-American Cultural Center, with the construction of a new uptown facility, became the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture.

Today, Gantt continues to advocate for equity and equal rights and serves on several civic, cultural and business boards, and to lead philanthropic efforts and community initiatives.