UNCG celebrates career of former professor and Poet Laureate: Fred Chappell

Sydney Thompson

Senior Staff Writer

On Oct. 1, in the Alumni House on campus, there was a celebration from 1 p.m. through 7 p.m. to commemorate the career of former UNCG English professor Fred Chappell. “I Am One of You Forever” was a free event on campus dedicated to celebrating the career of Chappell and the legacy left at UNCG. 

Named for one of Chappell’s own works, “I Am One of You Forever” is not just the title of one of his novels set in the mountains of North Carolina but was also the name of the documentary that was shown at the event. It also reflected the concept of how Chappell’s influence has lingered within UNCG even after his retirement. 

Fred Chappell was born in Canton, N.C. in 1936 and taught in the English program at UNCG from 1964 to his retirement in 2004. Chappell was also a Poet Laureate for the state of North Carolina from 1997 to 2002. He has also received many distinguished literary awards. He is noted for his connection to the Carolinas through his writings. 

“The mountains are in me wherever I go,” Chappell said in the trailer for his upcoming documentary film.

The event started at 1 p.m. with a panel of four UNCG alumni who were students of Chappell: Quinn Dalton, Julie Funderbirk, Drew Perry and Rhett Iseman Trull. The panel consisted of the four alumni discussing the impact Chappell, as a professor and mentor, had on their own work. 

At 2:30 p.m. the panel ended and an intermission in the form of a light reception was held. At the first intermission was a reception with snacks, drinks and the ability to purchase the works of Chappell for the book signing and meet and greet that took place later in the evening. 

The event reconvened at 3 p.m. for a performance by folk singer Bruce Piephoff. Piephoff is a folk artist who has been recording for 40 years with 21 CDs, several performances and two books of poetry. Piephoff is also a long-time friend of Chappell and was asked because of this relationship to perform for Chappell’s celebration. Piephoff played a selection of songs including “Better For My Eyes Than Carrots,” a noted favorite of Chappell’s. 

After Piephoff’s performance, the alumni from the panel reconvened to read their works. Dalton read from her upcoming novel “Midnight Bowling, Perry read an excerpt from an upcoming book in development and Funderbirk and Iseman Trull read aloud assorted poems that are currently unpublished. 

The event then had a second reception that focused on wine and hors d’oeuvres before the reading by Rodney Jones at 5 p.m. Jones is a professor at Warren Wilson College and was originally supposed to read on Sept. 30 alongside fellow author Maria Hummel. However, this reading was canceled due to Hurricane Ian. 

At 6 p.m. there was then a showing of the documentary film “Fred Chappell: I Am One of You Forever.” This documentary film explores Chappell’s contributions to literature and UNCG. The film has been selected for RiverRun International Film Festival 2022 and the Raleigh Film & Art Festival 2022. The documentary will also be airing in November 2022 on PBS. 

The event concluded with a meet and greet and book signing with Chappell. 

The event was a chance for many current and former students to reflect on the contributions Chappell made to UNCG as a professor and to the landscape of literature in North Carolina.

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