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Interview with Hannah D Gage, December 2, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Hannah D Gage, December 2, 2008
December 2, 2008
A Fayettville, NC native, Hannah Dawson Gage was fortunate to live in a home with forward thinking parents among siblings and cousins who were expected to understand the family business: radio. She studied Journalism at Chapel Hill, became a correspondent for NEWS and OBSERVER, and in Charleston, SC. In late 1970's moved to Wilmington living in Historic District and worked in family owned radio bought from Brody-Cameron Co. changing format on WGNI, both AM-FM, and name to Cape Fear Broadcasting.The first to bring a conservative Talk Radio host to the area from Washington, D.C., and featured music for mid class Black population on Coast 97.3. Sold WAAV radio and others to Cumulus Broadcasting in June, 2001. Hannah spent 8 years on UNCW Board, became a member of UNC Board of Governors 2001, and the first woman to head the 32 person Governing Board in the UNC system. The issues of today center on infrastructure, growth, space, funds, "enrollment management", on-line courses reaching those unable to live on campus and/or lack funds to be in the classroom. These students of all ages can get a degree in 3 years. The interview discusses all the important issues and changes facing students and instructors in a system deemed "not affordable" as it is today. Mrs. Gage is thorough and certainly knowledgeable on the future of campus education in a rapidly changing world. A MUST read and/or see. This interview should be viewed or transcript read to get full benefit.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Gage, Hannah D. Interviewer: Jones, Carroll / Edwards, Deborah Date of Interview: 9/15/2007 Series: SENC Volunteers Length 110 minutes

Jones: Today is Tuesday, December the 2nd, 2008. I'm Carroll Jones for the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Program. We are in the Helen Hagan room at special collections this morning. Our guest is Hannah Gage, a member of the UNC Board of Governors. Is that the way you put it?

Gage: Chairman.

Jones: Since 2001 and recently became the first woman to head the 32-person governing board is that correct?

Gage: That's correct.

Jones: Good. Hannah studied journalism at Chapel Hill and after graduation worked in Fayetteville and Washington, D.C. in radio. She returned to North Carolina making Wilmington your home, much to the delight of the radio listening public. Good morning, Hannah, and thanks for visiting us this morning and talking a little bit about you.

Gage: Thank you for having me.

Jones: Yeah, we're delighted. Tell us where you were born and your interest in communications and a little bit about the family.

Gage: I'm a native of Fayetteville and spent most of my life there until I went off to college. I was the eldest, am the eldest of five children. My father was in the radio business. I thought that I would end up in the newspaper business and I was a journalism major at Chapel Hill. I actually was a correspondent for the Raleigh News and Observer after I graduated and then worked in radio in Charleston and worked in television in Washington, D.C. as a news reporter. All of those jobs were as news reporters. Essentially I worked in everything but radio because I was pretty determined that I was not going to end up in a family business, but I changed my mind after I'd been out of school for awhile. I didn't want to go home and work within that structure and there was an opportunity at the time to purchase a frequency that was available in Wilmington and I guess it became available in the late 1970s, 1980. And at that point nobody in the world wanted to come to Wilmington, North Carolina. And I was still single working in Washington and I decided that it would be interesting to start some radio stations here and so I moved here.

Jones: On your own?

Gage: On my own and I was single at the time and my brothers who were younger were both married. They didn't want to come here before I-40 existed. There wasn't a lot going on so it wasn't a place everyone--

Jones: It was a miserable drive.

Gage: Yeah, exactly. It wasn't a place that everyone wanted to be.

Jones: No.

Gage: But I came down and spent three or four days and rented a place at the beach and drove around downtown and it--

Jones: Now when you say the beach are you speaking of Wrightsville?

Gage: Wrightsville, uh-huh, and drove around the historic district which was interesting. At the time I was living in Old Town Alexandria and there were a lot of similarities. It reminded me a lot of Old Town.

Jones: Yeah that's a great place.

Gage: And I thought, well you know this could be interesting and what really was interesting to me was the idea of starting something from scratch and being my own boss. So we purchased what was WGNI-AM which was an old line.

Jones: Now who is we?

Gage: Well the family company purchased it, Cape Fear Broadcasting is the name of the company and we purchased it from the Brody family and they had been in business with the Cameron family and they'd owned jointly Channel 6, the NBC affiliate here. Anyway and we bought it and there was an AM and an FM. The AM was an old top 40 station that everybody that grew up in Wilmington listened to. The FM was a beautiful music station. It was a top rated station that was losing money and so both properties were losing money so I came in and rethought what might make them profitable and changed the formats, flipped the frequencies which was really controversial at the point, at the time. I signed off, basically took both stations dark, reestablished WGNI on the FM band so that people that went to bed listening to Mantovani on WAAV beautiful music woke up listening to Rod Stewart so it was not a popular thing. At the time the newspaper said they got more controversial letters about that than they had about Watergate so it was hideously unpopular for someone that really had not made their way in the community .

Jones: Very small town, yeah.

Gage: But anyway we put GNI over there and we put big band music on the AM until I could make one of the stations profitable and my idea all along was--

Jones: That was awfully brave.

Gage: It was brave or foolish. Ignorance is bliss.

Jones: You were young.

Gage: Yeah, I didn't know any better. I felt like this community that what I wanted to do was put news talk on AM but I just didn't have the money at the time so I knew if I could make the FM profitable I would have a revenue stream so that I could put news talk on the AM and so that was always the goal. And we upgraded to AM. We sold the frequency. This was another thing that upset some people. We bought a better AM frequency which was WKLM country which was an old line heavily listened to AM country station and I put the news talk there. I abolished the country. So I was a disruptive force but it paid off. It paid off.

Jones: Yeah. What foresight you had.

Gage: Well I don't know. I don't really think it was that. Where there's need there's opportunity and to me there was need for an FM station that targeted women and there was a need for a station that addressed the needs of a community in a fuller way and that's what a news talk station does. And so we started the news, what became 980 WAAV which is a news talk format and we also did something that was looking back was visionary, not on my part by any stretch of the imagination, on the part of my father. He had heard a conservative talk show host in Washington, D.C. and his name was Bob Questle and the show was called Wrestle with Questle.

Jones: Oh, God.

Gage: And he wanted to find-- he thought that that would be interesting because Wilmington was kind of conservative and we talked about, couldn't figure out a way to syndicate it and convinced a Raleigh station WPTF to come in with us, hired this guy, and so we simulcast and basically used a microWAAV relay that we got in Atkinson. This was long before the kind of technology that we have now.

Jones: Yeah.

Gage: But it enabled us to have this major market conservative talk show host on a little, tiny station in Wilmington, North Carolina. And he was really the person that paved the way for Rush Limbaugh and many years before.

Jones: Bob Questle?

Gage: Bob Questle was, Wrestle with Questle.

Jones: I don't remember him.

Gage: So he was outlandish, outrageous, provocative and a die-hard conservative. I wish I could remember exactly what years we started that but I'm not sure. But at any rate it was successful and we kept adding more and more hours to that news block and I'm really lucky because those stations they still exist in the forms that they started in.

Jones: Oh, yeah.

Gage: And then in the early '90s--

Jones: Now that was in the '80s that you did that?

Gage: This was in the '80s. All during that decade those properties were developed. And then it appeared to me that the FCC was going to allow you to own two FMs and at that time you couldn't own more than one. And I knew that ultimately I could make more money if I had more coverage. But I also knew I had two young children at the time, very young. I actually was pregnant with one and had a young one and I knew that I couldn't run more than two properties at that point. So I thought about what I could do with WAAV, who I could sell WAAV to that would keep it news talk because I didn't want the format to change. The best prospect was someone who worked for me named Don Ansell.

Jones: Oh, he's wonderful.

Gage: And so Don and I worked in agreement and Don bought it and that freed me up to buy another FM so I bought a rock station which was the old line rock FM which was owned by Carl Brown and Don Watson because this was the largest community in the south that didn't have an FM that targeted the African American community. And so I took that rock station and made it an urban contemporary station. It was neat. That was very controversial also. A lot of people told me, "Well you were wasting a premier FM frequency on a population that doesn't have money." But the population did have money and the population was beginning to thrive and if you looked at the ten county area that it would cover, it was clear to me that we were moving towards in 1989, 1990 we had a middle class black population that got very little recognition. No one targeted their services to that group.

Jones: They still don't.

Gage: No, no one targeted their services. No one targeted their needs and to me it was such an obvious choice and it was thrilling to do. It was exciting. The station immediately became the number one station. It was not number one in revenue in the beginning.

Jones: And what was this station do you remember?

Gage: It's Coast 97.3.

Jones: Oh, yeah of course.

Gage: It was the old WHSL but it became Coast 97.3. It was one of the most interesting things that I had ever done. We operated our staffs together in a building on Dawson Street that I bought from Carl Brown and Don Watson that was behind their Pepsi dealership. It was just a great process the whole thing. Everybody learned because historically I'd had a predominantly white staff for GNI, not totally, and a predominantly African American staff on Coast. They became very merged in every sense in sales and on air and news. I'd taken Rhonda Bellamy. Rhonda had been with me for a long, long time from the time that we had WAAV and moved over and took significant roles on both properties. But we learned a lot. I mean I just think that culturally it changed forever how I looked at the needs of that population and also how I ran my business. And so I think that it was successful in every sense.

Jones: Well, yeah, obviously so. I should tell you I'm Don Ansell's a friend. Rhonda's a friend. And I've suckered them into coming in and being interviewed. Both of them are fantastic people.

Gage: They are.

Jones: And I think that you probably know this better than I but Rhonda has really attributed the fact that she had this opportunity here as really saving her life.

Gage: It is. It is but she has enormous talent.

Jones: She does.

Gage: I mean I was lucky in that I had for whatever reason I was able to find these people that had extraordinary talent and vision and they bought into the same vision that I had about where we go with this. And initially just like I had to use GNI to fund WAAV when WAAV didn't make money. I knew it would but I needed a revenue stream to keep it up and the same thing with Coast. Coast we separated from our parent company because I wanted a larger share of this next venture and so it was still a family business but it was the shares were distributed differently and it became not Cape Fear Broadcasting. It became Cape Fear Radio. But I had to use a lot of the resources from WGNI while we educated the public in southeastern North Carolina about the value of the African American consumer.

Jones: What kind of feedback did you get on this initially?

Gage: Horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible feedback and some of my best clients that had been with me for 15 years on GNI would slam the door in our face when we came in talking to them about advertising on Coast. They didn't see the value.

Jones: So that little provincial feeling was prevalent at that time?

Gage: It was hard. It was really discouraging.

Jones: Now we're talking about what '70s, '80s?

Gage: No, no, no, no, no, this was 1991-92.

Jones: Really?

Gage: Yeah and what I learned and it was an important lesson because I think you can apply it to every part of your life if you can't move people out of the emotional arena you can't educate them.

Jones: True.

Gage: You just can't.

Jones: Very true.

Gage: And for the longest time there were some doors that we banged on every week, week after week, month after month until one day and I'm not a quick study, one day I thought, "Why?" It was the principle to me. Why could they not recognize the value of this? And then one day I thought, "You know what it's taking too much time and I'll go elsewhere because there are new people coming in that'll buy this." The thing that I discovered and I will tell you one business that was the hardest in the beginning but did become educated and I really respect them because they tried hard for the longest time but it was Bozeman's Sporting Goods which had been a great advertiser and in the beginning didn't want to have this new radio station. They weren't willing to invest in it. Well it was clear to me that if they were going to expand their share of the pie everybody was fighting over the same white pie and it seemed so logical to me that you expand and you invite this other audience in whether it's Latino, whether it's senior citizens, whether it's African American, this is what you do. It's logical. But if people are emotional they don't think logically or in a linear way. They think in a very circular way. I couldn't get beyond it. And we finally got them to try something one weekend and this was where the light went off. They did a remote broadcast which was a live broadcast and I said, "You know let's just see if people come in and buy. Do it one day. Do it one day and see what happens." And I told them I said, "I think your cash register will ring. I think you'll be surprised." And they were, "Oh, it'll change our clientele" or even, and this they really regretted and apologized for saying it later but they said, "You know it might increase our shoplifting."

Jones: Well, that was the old way.

Gage: But it came completely around, yeah, and they were one of the most remarkable businesses in town. We did this big event that Saturday. The parking lot was packed. Their cash register rang all day long. They had an incredible sales experience and Monday morning they called and from that point on they were there.

Jones: You had them, yeah.

Gage: And they were willing to try and be educated. A lot of businesses weren't.

Jones: So you were fortunate and they too. They tried it.

Gage: They tried it.

Jones: That's the key.

Gage: They tried it and then they recognized we're all alike. Their money was green. But it was just different stages of progress. So we had our eyes opened. So anyway and so I did that for 20 years and tried to get bigger at one point, had signed agreements to buy other stations in town, and interestingly we were challenged by the Justice Department.

Jones: I was going to ask you is there not some kind of a ruling? Now I know nothing about broadcasting but is there not some kind of a ruling, what's the word for it? I can't remember. You can't have like a monopoly on a certain area.

Gage: Yeah, you can't. Well you can have a monopoly. It's gotten much looser but at the time they were so scared that large companies would come in and buy, completely buy the voices, the media voices, and so if you had a certain share of revenue in a market that was the way that they divided it up. The idea was that CBS might do that or Clear Channel and it would choke off family businesses. Well the irony here, excuse me, we'll edit that out. The irony here was that I was the family business that the only way I was going to be able to survive in the next decade was if I got bigger to compete with Clear Channel and CBS. So I tried to get bigger and a suit was filed by another small business and I think they later regretted it but saying that her share is too great. And the Justice Department, of course, had a hearing. Well during this whole time, it went on for a year, and I went up to defend myself. It was an interesting experience for me. I was trying to buy two other FMs or merge with that company and after interviewing me they realized that I was exactly who they were trying to save. I was who they were trying to protect.

Jones: Right, it would seem that way.

Gage: Local people that really cared about what was going on that did public service and they ruled in my favor but I was the first. It was one of the first cases and it went on so long that the contract ended during the time that we were waiting for the Justice Department to make their decision. So I was kind of worn out and I thought, "Well gosh, now I don't have a contract to buy them. That doesn't exist now." The market was booming. It was 1999 and we were doing more business than I ever dreamed and I thought "If it's too good to be true, maybe it's too good."

Jones: Was it booming everywhere all over the country or was it booming in this area because of the fantastic growth to this area?

Gage: It was everywhere then. It was both. It was both. This area had been discovered. It was the height.

Jones: It was during what from the mid-'80s on down this place just took off didn't it?

Gage: And the radio market here really took off around 1995 in terms of really expanding and by 1999 when the FCC threw away the last bit of regulation, it was peaking. And it was about that time. We were completely sold out. There was nothing you could do but go up in your rates because you were always sold out. I started having offers and from big companies. I'm intuitive. I'm very, very intuitive.

Jones: I guess you are.

Gage: They were offering to buy my properties. They weren't offering to buy the rest of my family properties. I knew that mine were doing better and I thought, "Well, I want the other properties to be wrapped together." Anyway, at the end of the day we said to a particular company, I convinced the rest of my siblings and cousins that this may be the right thing for us to do right now. I think they're going to keep these stations the way that they are and I don't know that it's going to get any easier without any regulation. My pockets would never be as deep as Clear Channel's. I mean they were never going to be that deep and we were doing so well that it just felt like when you're doing this well this is probably it. And so we sold to a company called Cumulus.

Jones: That was what the '90s?

Gage: No, it was approved in 2001.

Jones: Yeah, okay, yeah I remember. Well I remember when that happened and there was an awful lot of angst among the listening public.

Gage: There was.

Jones: Yeah, you know what's going to happen?

Gage: Yeah, yeah, and nothing happened.

Jones: No.

Gage: No, they kept everybody. I mean I was really, really lucky. It wasn't that case. I mean they had 300 markets. This is one of the few and it was a compliment to my staff. It was not to me. But they couldn't do any better. They couldn't figure out any way to improve these properties because there was a lot of talent there. It was Craig and Kitty in the morning on GNI. It was great people on Coast. It was great people on WAAV. Most of them are still there. Most of them are gradually retiring. Don's retired but everybody else is still there so it worked. It worked for me and that was about the time that I went on the Board of Governors. It was literally simultaneously.

Jones: Let's go back a little bit and tell me this. From a young reporter out of school, school of journalism at Carolina, even though this was a family business in radio how did you get to the point, you were awfully young, we're going back to the '70s, to have the know-how to get in and do what you've just described to me and to our listeners what you did as far as these radio stations were concerned? You're speaking of me, I, etc, that you'd made these decisions. Either your father trained you from the time you were two inches tall or you paid close attention or it was a natural gift but that's a big burden. I say this knowing a little bit not about how you run a radio station but I had an uncle who was head of NBC TV in Los Angeles at one point before that radio was KFI, KNX Los Angeles stations, ABC, NBC, CBS mainly. They seemed to be constantly on edge ratings. Who's doing this? Who's doing that? Who's doing the other thing? It was one coast after another.

Gage: Mm-hmm.

Jones: I always looked on that as being a kind of business where from the time of two years old you had to learn what to do.

Gage: Yeah, I think you--my father did something really interesting with all of us and there are five children in my family and I had two cousins because their mother had owned the station with my father. And he started having board meetings when we were in college and high school. And so we learned along the way. He told us all that "I will never let you tear down what I've built."

Jones: Good for him.

Gage: Everybody in the family didn't make it in the family business. And I don't know what happened. Somewhere along the way either nobody wanted to come to Wilmington or I think he felt like maybe I had--he was confident that I could come down here and figure it out.

Jones: He trusted your judgment.

Gage: He visited me twice in 20 years. He never came. He never said, "I think you should do this. I think you should do that." He let me fail or succeed.

Jones: That's the way you learn.

Gage: I mean I remember in the beginning I knew nothing. He had never even shown me how to read a profit and loss statement. I remember at one point thinking that these things were stacking up on my desk that were coming from Fayetteville and I didn't have time to look at them and going home one weekend and realizing they were P and Ls. And I would juggle my payroll. I mean I made a lot of Friday payrolls on Monday morning which is not a bad thing for people to learn to do. Put the check, put some checks in your top drawer because you can't, you know, you know that your employees' checks won't clear. That's a great experience for everybody, every small business owner to have.

Jones: Now tell me that again because I have a son who is now part owner, a small part of a group in Raleigh that has just launched Sirius Radio. They had to wait for I guess the Federal Trade and all this sort of thing to give them a license and whatever. And he said that the way they pay people because of the funds available--

Gage: Yeah, we juggle.

Jones: Yeah, so he's got points in the company and he's getting a good paycheck but he says sometimes it's easier to put it on a weekly basis and you do just that. You write the checks but you don't hand them out.

Gage: Yeah and I think every small business knows that and especially in a business like radio that maybe you may not have great cash flow the first three months of the year.

Jones: Looking for sponsors.

Gage: Because people aren't, yeah, people aren't advertising. So I think that my father let me learn and it was not without controversy. A funny thing looking back on it the owner had been Leo Brody who was a wonderful, traditional Jewish businessman from Kinston and he had said to me in the--he disagreed with what my father was doing. When he agreed to sell the properties, he had not understood that a daughter was going to be running them. He assumed that it was going to be one of the sons.

Jones: Well was that not unusual for that time?

Gage: It was very unusual. It was very unusual.

Jones: For anybody. I don't care where.

Gage: And there were seven of us and he was floored and he was very vocal with my father about how he felt about that. He thought that was a terrible idea and he had these two sons and he couldn't imagine why he was making this decision. He made it really clear to me, which was uncomfortable in the beginning and he said, "You're not going to be able to do it" and on and on and on. Over the years, we became great friends and I would send him my profit and loss statement periodically. And later in his life, and it was a great compliment to me, I wish I could remember what year, he drove down from Kinston. He had to have been in his 90s.

Jones: Oh, my God.

Gage: To tell me that he'd been wrong and he said, "You know I looked at this and never in my wildest dreams did I think that you could ever make this kind of money." And he said, "And I take it back." And he had also disagreed at one point. I wanted to build a tower and my father thought it was a great idea. It was very expensive. It was 1,000 foot tower. In those days, you didn't need it. There weren't any people out there beyond this county but I kept thinking that eventually we'll be like the triangle and we'll go from Myrtle Beach to Jacksonville. You only had a certain number of years to build 1,000 foot tower and even though the population wasn't there I knew it would be and so it seemed to me like where we should put our money. My father had thought that all along and we tried to get Don Watson and Carl to go in with us and couldn't get anybody to share the tower so I had to sacrifice all kinds of other improvements in the short run to have this facility that would trump everybody else's facility way down the road. But it seemed like a crazy thing and at the time I think Leo Brody thought it was a crazy thing. He said, "How could you spend this money? You're going to be broadcasting over the swamp and over the ocean and you don't have to have that signal." But it was the greatest. It paid off because our radio stations and we put both FMs on that tower and our radio stations reached Jacksonville, Myrtle Beach. They'd go inland. So we can sell to all those people and I still call them our but it's Ken Mills' radio stations. So I just think that a lot of it was luck and it really was luck. I had a father that didn't tell me what to do and he let me fail.

Jones: You were absolutely fortunate having that.

Gage: Yeah, yeah. And he never worried. I don't think he ever really worried. I think he always believed that I'd pull it off even when I'd need a cash infusion and so I think the ending it paid off. And had it looked like it was going to be trouble I wouldn't have stayed. I mean I wouldn't have made, you know, I would not have continued to be the general manager but it worked and a lot of it had to do with all the wonderful people that worked with me.

Jones: Do you have a hand in anything like that now?

Gage: No, I don't.

Jones: Do you miss it?

Gage: Yes, I do and if I had the time, you know, we closed on the sale of the stations in, I think it was June, 2001. I was elected to the Board of Governors like two weeks later and I had a no compete, a three year no compete so that was a condition of the sale that I would stay out of it and this was basically southeastern North Carolina and South Carolina. So unless I was going to move I could either sell the properties for the price I wanted or I could not compete with them. So I agreed to not compete which meant I couldn't get back in it. So I threw my energy into the Board of Governors and during that three year period of time the radio industry changed enough so that I wasn't certain that I wanted to get back in.

Jones: It's changed a great deal hasn't it?

Gage: It's changed enormously and I knew it would. I mean I could see on the horizon satellite.

Jones: That's just it.

Gage: I could see even a bigger thing, more than satellite because satellite is never going to have the same kind of local. More than that the thing that probably sealed my decision to sell and my decision to convince the rest of the family or try to convince the rest of the family was that one night I went upstairs and said something to my son, Dawson, asked him if he'd listened to the new morning team on Coast. He said, "No, I don't listen to the radio." It surprised me and he had already--it was when I guess he was listening to music online. He had a computer. He had the first iPod which was huge. I mean he was one of the first people I think that had an iPod. It was enormous. And I realized, I mean I remember closing his door thinking, "That's it. That's it. If you don't have them coming through the funnel, lying in bed listening to the radio at night and loving that connection and that's not their source of music, then the audience will be shrinking rapidly" which is what's happened. And radio is always going to be vital but it was going to be harder and harder to make a good living and the prices were exorbitant and I couldn't see how anybody could make those margins work.

Jones: Well has radio in your estimation having been through, absolutely through the gamut really from one spectrum to another kind of settled down to two mediums, either music of some sort and talk radio? Is there anything else? There is no longer except you've got your feed-ins to breaking news and that sort of thing but it seems that--

Gage: Yeah, it's always been news and entertainment. It's the same thing it was when it started.

Jones: Well they used to--I'm so old, as my children think, I can remember music was always an important part of everybody's life.

Gage: Yeah, yeah.

Jones: Some form of it but there were always these wonderful, wonderful daily or weekly shows that you could hear and you waited for them and they were entertaining and you could let your mind wander.

Gage: Yeah and those were before you had multiple other options.

Jones: That's right. That's right.

Gage: And lots of 24-hour television and so there's no true breaking news on the radio anymore. I mean there is but it's breaking everywhere.

Jones: Yeah, it's everywhere.

Gage: And people are getting an email.

Jones: That's right, yeah.

Gage: From the New York Times or the Star News or whatever so you have multiple ways of getting information.

Jones: I think sometimes we have too much information.

Gage: We have way too much information. There's no question.

Jones: No, you don't pay attention to most of it so much of the time.

Gage: Yeah, you tune it out. Radio is always viable and I think that it's just--I don't think it will be as profitable. It's hard to make it profitable. It'll always be vital and I think that in some respects I think it will come full circle. I think that you'll have--I think there is a place. I can remember Saturday morning radio used to be like the key clubs from the high schools. You'd have them doing an hour or you'd have a gospel group and I think you'll see more and more locally originated kinds of things but there are just so many options and I think that where before you could get a large enough audience to convince any underwriter if you were a public station or convince any advertiser if you were a commercial station that this is a great way to reach lots of people. That's harder to do now because everybody isn't that one place. I mean you can remember when we all watched the evening news at night at 6:30.

Jones: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Gage: It was an event and everybody wanted advertising messages.

Jones: And you had names. They were the stars.

Gage: Yeah and you wanted your advertising messages in that. Well now you don't have those things so it's different. We're in a transition and nobody's figured it out because nobody's figured out the economic model.

Jones: You know I hear people say, whether it's television or radio, they never say they listen to FOX News or something. They listen to Hannity and Colmes, listen to Rhonda Bellamy. "I listen to" what's that guy over the big talker, whatever. Anyway it's always the name of the person not the station or the channel.

Gage: Yeah.

Jones: And they identify themselves.

Gage: But they know where the channel is.

Jones: Of course they do.

Gage: Yeah, yeah.

Jones: Of course they do but that's it. That's sort of taken the place.

Gage: My husband always says he grew up listening to Cousin Brucie. I don't know who Cousin Brucie is but, yeah, and that really is the power of radio. They feel they have a personal connection to a person.

Jones: How old are your sons?

Gage: They're 21 and almost 18.

Jones: Have you learned from them, their generation, their time what is important in radio and communications period, whether it's newspaper, whether it's an iPod, whether it's radio, whether it's satellite?

Gage: Oh, yeah, yeah because the older one in particular because he's a little more political so he's more connected with news and those options.

Jones: Does he go to Carolina?

Gage: He actually does now. The younger one he may listen. He may have one or two radio stations he listens to but he's got an iPod and the older one has satellite radio. He doesn't listen to music on it much. He listens to the BBC.

Jones: A lot of people do now.

Gage: It's a phenomenal network.

Jones: It is. It is.

Gage: You know what I've learned from them is that there's still a lot of moving parts that if I were going to invest in anything or I know where the future is, I would be looking at what they're doing and I can't figure it out yet. Clearly it's online. Clearly it's online.

Jones: Oh, yeah.

Gage: But I don't know what the model for making money is because you got to make money.

Jones: It's foreign to me. I have to learn this but then I'm a very advanced age. I have to learn all this. Again going back to my son he says, "You can hear me or see the blogs or hear me online."

Gage: Yeah.

Jones: What do you mean? He said, "Here's this key. Just plug in to www.bustersports" blah, blah, blah. Buster is the name of one of the owner's dogs and they have set up people from all over the country. I said, "But that means I have to sit and look at a 19-inch screen. I want to be moving around as I'm working. I'm not a sit on the bottom type." And he said, "Well you can do that if you would just plug in the XM radio." And I'm thinking this is beyond me. See I'm at that stage where things have moved too fast.

Gage: Yeah, I think it's confusing. It's very confusing. It's very confusing to my mother and I'm the same way. I mean I'm not technologically inclined. I don't think I could if something happens to my DVD player I have trouble hooking it back up if I move things, yeah. I rely completely on my sons for all that. I rely completely on my sons to reformat my laptop. There are no barriers in their minds and I'm always scared I'll break it permanently.

Jones: Right, right, either one of them interested in this type thing?

Gage: Yeah. Well not radio, they're both online.

Jones: No, communications.

Gage: Yes, I think but I think more--I think the older one may be a journalist. I mean he has the same kind of inclinations and interests that I had but I think it'll be when I say print, print is really online.

Jones: Right, it is.

Gage: I mean he's a Mandarin--he speaks Mandarin and Spanish and I think that he'll probably write for some kind of foreign publication.

Jones: Let's go back to that Mandarin. Why did he just--

Gage: Isn't that wild? He placed out in Spanish.

Jones: Well, maybe not so much if you take a look down the future.

Gage: Yeah, no. I think it ended up being by default he made a good--an unintended consequence. He spent his summer in Bolivia. He went to Andover for high school and he spent a summer in Bolivia and at the Mary Knoll Institute which is where they train missionaries to learn Spanish and it was so successful that it enabled him when he got back to Andover and later to Chapel Hill he placed out of Spanish and he had to have some language so he just checked Mandarin which was a good choice, really, really hard, hardest thing he's ever done I think because he's into the--the first couple of years are hideous and then it just gets worse and it gets more difficult but he loves it.

Jones: And it's such a correct dialect.

Gage: Yeah it is and I mean I don't know how many characters there are, thousands and thousands and thousands. It's not like a 26 letter alphabet. But he's doing that and I think he'll be in some form of communications. And the other one I don't know.

Jones: Yeah time will tell.

Gage: But they came along, they came of age as we were transitioning from radio into the internet and so they just didn't have the same fascination with the radio that I mean I remember lying in bed. I remember my first transistor radio, a little transistor radio and I remember lying in bed and listening to it and thinking that it was a miracle. I mean it was just a miracle that somebody was playing these records, yeah, out of this little thing. And I think that thus the bond, the very personal connection. Like I don't say to people, I never said to people, "Oh, I love my NBC television station" but for most of us we listened to one radio station. Up until recently maybe you probably grew up, you probably had one station that was your favorite station.

Jones: Well I can't remember. I grew up in Los Angeles and you were hit with everything all over.

Gage: Well that may have been different, yeah, not a small town, you probably had more options.

Jones: Yeah, I was in a boarding school so we had the radios taken away from us too. Otherwise we were on the floor under a sheet, you know, listening to these things.

Gage: Yeah, yeah and it was personal and powerful.

Jones: Oh, absolutely.

Gage: And I think if you don't have that emotional connection you switch.

Jones: The most important thing was once a week when the Hit Parade would come on and we'd all make bets as to what was going to be number one.

Gage: Yeah, what would be at the top, yeah, and who knows how that happens now. It moved to MTV and they began to break new music and rate new music and then I guess it's still there but I don't know if kids watch it.

Jones: I don't know. Let's get onto--tell me a little bit about your kids. How many versions of Hannah Gage are there I mean really?

Gage: I'm like every mother, a lot of multitasking.

Jones: But still, you know, kids have a way whether you realize it or not in the beginning of simply taking over your life.

Gage: They do take over your life. It's a great thing.

Jones: And it becomes wonderful.

Gage: And you're a great leveler.

Jones: Oh, boy aren't we?

Gage: So anytime I've ever thought I got too consumed with whatever I was doing at the time they were a great reminder that this is not all that important and it's not. It's not. If I'm not going to do it somebody else is going to do it so they've been great and I listen to my kids. I mean I've always listened to them. They're adaptable and they went to daycare early on because I was working at the radio station. I took my children with me to Saturday remotes.

Jones: So they were independent?

Gage: They were very independent.

Jones: That's the only way to be.

Gage: I have this great story that I'll tell about one of my children, my oldest child because I felt guilty because my mother thought it was horrific that I went right back to work and so like every mother I was propelled through life by guilt. But I would take my oldest child to a sitter's home before I went to the radio station in the morning and I guess maybe when he was two or three I was driving back and it was a long drive because the person lived out in King's Grant. The radio station was on Second Street downtown so I'd usually be driving home between 6:30 and 7:00 at night and in my own world while he was strapped in the car seat in the back. And I can remember feeling particularly guilt because I'd taken him to two remotes on a weekend so Saturday and Sunday he'd been at my live broadcast somewhere and then Monday morning back at the daycare. I was driving home and somewhere along Market Street he said very clearly, "We've got to do something about the minimum wage."

Jones: He's how old?

Gage: Three. It was so stunning that I pulled off the road.

Jones: Who is that back there?

Gage: I drove this old diesel Mercedes and I pulled off the road and I said, "What did you say?" And he said, "We've got to do something about the minimum wage. Gina can't make it on her salary from Hardee's." Well Gina was the daughter of the babysitter and what I realized was that in this little house with all these people coming and going he had really had a window on a big world.

Jones: Yeah, right.

Gage: He would never have gotten that had he been kept in my home. He would probably not have gotten that had he been dropped at a regular daycare center.

Jones: Right, too many kids.

Gage: Too many kids. And he knew exactly. I said, "Well how much is the minimum wage" and I can't remember what it was but he knew exactly what it was.

Jones: That was scary wasn't it?

Gage: But I was just flabbergasted. I thought you know it's not so bad for him to be in this home. How many other 3-year-olds really understand that there are people that are trying to make it on a minimum wage? And what he saw was it was very immediate to him. The room where he usually kept his toys because she couldn't make it on a minimum wage she was moving back home which meant that the children that were kept by this woman, by Dee-Dee had a much smaller space in the living room. So he had made all the connections for selfish reasons. He didn't have the room.

Jones: But still that's intelligent.

Gage: But it was and I thought you know it's not all bad. We can feel guilty or we can recognize that--

Jones: It's a learning lesson for him.

Gage: Yeah it's a learning lesson.

Jones: I live one way. They live another.

Gage: Yeah and I'll tell anybody if I was successful it's because I had talented people that worked for me and I had great childcare. I mean that is the key.

Jones: That's probably right.

Gage: I never, ever worried about my children. Dee-Dee knew more about child rearing than I ever did and I just trusted her. I trusted her.

Jones: And they've grown up to be fine people.

Gage: Thus far, you know.

Jones: So far.

Gage: Yeah.

Jones: Oh, well.

Gage: We hope.

Jones: Yes, always, there's always hope.

Gage: I think that it's our greatest achievement thus far.

Jones: Well that's nice. It's nice to hear parents talk that way approvingly about their kids and be realistic at the same time.

Gage: Yeah. I mean they're going to mess up.

Jones: Well, of course, they all do and you go "Ah!"

Gage: Yeah.

Jones: Anyway let's talk about the Board of Governors. You've been on there since 2001. How did that come about? How did that happen?

Gage: I got lucky. I'd been on the board here at UNCW for eight years and was terming out and was really wondering what I was going to do. We were finalizing the sale of the company and once I realized that they weren't going to--that it wasn't going to go through unless I agreed not to be in broadcasting for three years it was pretty clear to me that I was going to have some time on my hands.

Jones: Something that you'd never had?

Gage: Well not a lot. You just need a place to put your energy to feel useful and I talked to Mark Lainer at the time and I said, "You know maybe this would be a good chance for us to see if we can get somebody on the Board of Governors from this region."

Jones: Were you still in rotary at that time?

Gage: Uh-huh. I had just gotten out of rotary I think. I had just gotten out of rotary uh huh. I got out of rotary as I was going through the FCC, Justice Department things because I was gone all the time so that would have been like in '99. But anyway, so I called Senator Tony Rand. I grew up in Fayetteville. He's from Fayetteville. And I said, "Look, I don't know if this is a possibility. I don't know if I could be elected but I'm thinking that this might be something that I'm interested in and you don't have a lot of women and I've spent eight years on a board of trustees. I understand the system of governance." Jim Leutze had trained me well and he said, "It'd be great. Let's see." He said, "No guarantee." And I ran in the Senate. You run in either the House or the Senate and I just got lucky and got on and was pretty strategic about it. Bob Wharf was on it at the time. He'd run in the House. We had been on the UNCW board together. We knew exactly what we wanted to do. He had wanted to change or try to get the funding formula changed so that UNCW would get more money. He was a Republican. He'd never been able to put together the support on the Board of Governors, so it wasn't going anywhere. But we thought with the two of us together we could scream enough so that we could get a committee established by the president and maybe piece together the votes which we did. We worked on it.

Jones: You were such complete opposites.

Gage: Very opposite and worked together wonderfully. He's one of my favorite people in the world and I don't know that we have ever disagreed on anything, I mean anything fundamental that we were working on. We just had a great working relationship and we were able to get the votes so we got a $7 million expenditure for UNCW that is recurring so it's every year they get that $7 million. It didn't correct it completely but it was significant. People finally recognized that, yes this was an institution that got less money per student and had to make do with less and has done so brilliantly which has probably been part of the problem because if you're doing it so well why do you need the extra money? Well you need the extra money to go the rest of the way so we still have a way to go and it's a little harder now. It's going to be a lot harder right now but the state doesn't have any money. But we accomplished a lot.

Jones: And their donors don't have any money for the time being.

Gage: No, yeah but everybody's in the same boat so nobody's going to sneak way out ahead in front of everybody because we're all just slogging through molasses.

Jones: Well it's all fair right now I think. You want to hold onto what you've got just in case. Rosemary has been marvelous about this too. She truly--

Gage: She's great.

Jones: She is, yeah.

Gage: I mean we--

Jones: We got one of her love messages yesterday.

Gage: You did?

Jones: Oh, yes. We get them constantly. She thinks my husband walks on water.

Gage: What is a love message?

Jones: Well the love message is "You've been so wonderful, Bob, we rely on you. Can you please help us out this one more time?"

Gage: She's good.

Jones: With stickers for your car. We don't need any.

Gage: Well I think that she's one of the best chancellors in the system.

Jones: She's tenacious but she does it in I think a very thoughtful, forward, when I say forward, forward-looking way. She knows what they want. And the groundwork was there.

Gage: Yeah, she's taken it to the next level. She's extraordinary.

Jones: She is.

Gage: And I think that our board recognizes that, recognized that this year by giving her something extra. I think if you were to ask Erskine or anybody on the board who are the top two chancellors, she's there with everybody. I mean she's better than I mean so many chancellors all over the country in my opinion, but I don't know that people locally fully grasp how talented she is and we're lucky.

Jones: Well I think one reason is they were so used to a very public Jim Leutze, a very public Jim Leutze. The joke was he never stayed home. And Rosemary is here. She shows up for all of these events but it's only been recent that she's been visible out in the public eye.

Gage: Now see I see her everywhere.

Jones: Well I do. The thing is she's still quiet. She's very--we do too but the thing is there are always certain things and she doesn't go.

Gage: Yeah, she doesn't draw attention to herself.

Jones: No.

Gage: I think she focuses on the institution. You need different people for different stages. What we needed was somebody to focus on the measurements and on the work. We didn't need to do a whole lot of new things here. We just needed to--

Jones: You know what I think she did. I'm interjecting something now. I think she took a lot of very talented people who were already in place and made them feel better about what they were doing and let them go forward and expand their particular departments.

Gage: Yeah, yeah. I think she probably did and I'm not here. What I look at is our measurements and what we're looking at is, is the institution graduating more students? Is the institution becoming more diverse?

Jones: I want to get to that. I'm coming to that.

Gage: All those things that really make a great university and she is very methodically is going through the steps and going down that path and there are no shortcuts. She understands the value of putting systems in place and having matrix that measure everything and having ways of evaluating processes, so she's amazing.

Jones: How much time do we have?

Gage: I know.

Jones: Let's take a break and if you don't mind change film.

Gage: Okay, shift.

Jones: And I want to talk to you more about the university, the changes in your admission, teaching methods, what they're looking for and how it differs now from just a few years ago. We're always proud that the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is always ranked number one, number two, period which is great, but there has to be a limit because of space and we want to talk about that.

Gage: Yeah. I think that Chapel Hill is extraordinary and I'm a graduate and I've got four generations in my family that are graduates and I have a son there. And, yes, you're right everybody can't go there. I think that this is one of the best undergraduate teaching institutions in the country. I think that rigor here I mean it continues to ramp up.

Jones: When you say "here" you're talking about?

Gage: UNCW.

Jones: Okay.

Gage: UNCW. I think it's an amazing place and I think it's recognized that way around the state. It's beginning to be recognized.

Jones: It's become that way.

Gage: Yeah it's beginning to be recognized outside of the state. I think it will be what Chapel Hill was 25, 30 years ago. It never intends on getting as large as Chapel Hill or State.

Jones: We can't.

Gage: Well you could. You could have satellite campuses. There are all kinds of ways.

Jones: Well, yeah, all right.

Gage: But I think that what's happened and the biggest changes really have occurred in the last couple of years and that's that the state has recognized we don't have the money to educate everybody in the university system. We're going to have to put more students through the community colleges in the first two years and we're going to have to educate a lot of students online.

Jones: Let's break there.

Gage: Okay.

(Tape Change)

Jones: Tape number two, it's December the second, Carroll Jones with Hannah Gage. We had an interesting off air conversation here having to do with today's students and the change in universities. So let's pick up anywhere you want to. Let's talk about the student life and what we're experiencing now.

Gage: I think there are a couple of things that are happening, but I remember clearly when I was on the UNCW board having a discussion about the dorms. And we were looking at freshmen to sophomore retention. And there were lots of problems with some of the freshmen. And the problems stemmed from students who were not getting along with their roommates. You know that's a classic challenge. You learn to work around people that are different. At the same time we were approving a dorm that was kind of like an apartment-style dorm. And it was more expensive. And I could remember saying, "Well why are we doing this?" And they said, "Well almost all the children that are coming into the university have never shared a bedroom. And they do much better if they have a single and they can socialize." Well this is not just here, this was everywhere this was going on. And I was thinking God, isn't that one of the points of going off, learning to, you know, negotiate around those self-sufficiencies. We, we as a culture, I mean it's not this institution at all, it's across the board, parents have meddled too much. You want to know who your child's with, but, you know, calling two or three times a day on a cell phone, that's not really communicating with them anyway. And then when they get off at college they need, I mean, they need to fall on their face some. They learn from it. They need to fall on their face when you're not there, and understand the consequences of their actions. And so we see, across the system a lot of those problems manifesting themselves in interpersonal relationships. I think he probably talked a lot since, student affairs directors, shine the light on that better than I can. But I mean to answer your question I think that UNCW is becoming more and more like Chapel Hill was when I was there in 1975.

Jones: It's no longer UNC, by the sea.

Gage: No. Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. I think it's already extraordinary. Not fully recognized. In the next decade I think you'll see that all come together. It's been within our system. I mean we have State and Carolina. And we have Appalachian and UNC-Asheville, which is a wonderful, tiny little art school. You've seen the quality of students increasing in those institutions, and they juggle back and forth. I think that the culture here is going to lend itself to be more like the culture that attracted the Chapel Hill students. There is a certain culture that exists at Appalachian State and UNC-Asheville that's part of the mountains, you know, part of that outdoor.

Jones: I can see that.

Gage: Yeah, it's a different culture, and every student doesn't want that. And I think the culture at UNCW is closer to Chapel Hill's.

Jones: Probably.

Gage: Minus the football, which we always here about. We have basketball, and it's strong, it'll get better. So I just think the sky's the limit and I think Rosemary DePaolo is the person that's taken this to the limit.

Jones: Now the board of governors discussed some new degrees that should be available like masters or doctorals.

Gage: We approve all those.

Jones: And which, this school, UNCW certainly needs. They're coming.

Gage: No, not necessarily. It'll all based on need. There's not enough money in the state. Here to for, we had every school wants this, every school wants that. State of North Carolina can't afford it. What we did two years ago was spend a year and a half touring the state, having public hearings, listening, looking at the documented need, not anecdotal stories that made their way to us. The true need for certain disciplines. Looking at twenty years down the road, what's going to happen there, what's going to need to happen there? What things should we be doing, should the community colleges be doing? And so it will be very focused on super-serving the needs. So you won't see every single thing being approved. You don't even see them bringing things they would've brought five years ago.

Jones: Some of the things I've seen and we talked about here on campus. There are, let's take history, they're no longer taking history, it's women's issues. It's all these different subcultures that are in the department of history. And that's fascinating but that's also a signal of what's happening now. And I guess what's going to happen.

Gage: Well how many, for example, do you need seventeen women's historys? You don't. And so you look at--

Jones: Public history is another thing. To me, I don't want to upset anybody, public history and an awful lot of it is not studying history. It is and it isn't? You learn how to window dress up museums. But then you have to know about that thing you're window dressing in the museum.

Gage: There's a lot of criticism about what has happened if you look at core curriculum. It's kind of fascinating, it's fascinating to me, if you look at Harvard, Columbia, and they're constantly reevaluating what they do. Columbia was really the only school in the country that agreed that every student should have certain courses before they graduate. To know certain things about the world they were going to live in.

Jones: Do you agree with that.

Gage: I do agree with that.

Jones: I do too.

Gage: But that is not what most institutions believe. I think everybody believes about that conceptually but what are those things?

Jones: Right. There you go. Right.

Gage: And that's what breaks down. That's where it breaks down. There is something that if you had told me ten years ago I would have argued against this and I've begun to change my mind because I think in history, for example, I think that you can be a history major and never, ever take a U.S. history course, maybe Portuguese history or whatever and you can come out and have been educated by a school in our country by a school that the State of North Carolina--from a school that the State of North Carolina basically paid for the majority of your education and not be required to know anything about our own country and I think the flaw there is that I don't want to tell people what they need to learn but in a world that's increasingly global I think that there needs to be some understanding of your role as a citizen and how you participate in this democracy in this country. And I think that that's a conversation that we have but it's one of those abstract conversations that is so controversial it's like talking about free speech, which is one we're going through right now because of what happened recently at NC State. We never end the conversation with a conclusion and it does worry me because I think that you want students that are educated in this country to understand voting, to understand how to participate in a democracy because that enhances their life and to know that they have some role and if you don't take certain classes how do you know that unless your family teaches you? I mean I know people and you probably know people that may have a problem with what's going on in their neighborhood, but not understand they have a voice. They can go to a planning board, or a city council, or there is an avenue for their participation in their government.

Jones: Sometimes they don't want to make waves. If you do it then I'll follow.

Gage: Sometimes they don't know how to get there. And that's the thing that worries me the most. If you choose not to take advantage of it--but if you don't know how it works, I think that's troubling. If you don't understand a democracy and the history, and how we got to where we are in this country. It's never worried me before, but I look at my own children, I look at Dawson, who may spend his life in China. I'm so glad that at Andover he took all these--he knows everything about American history. He knows why these (inaudible) rights are important to us, he knows how we fought for them.

Jones: That's the danger, there's this whole generation of kids--

Gage: Who won't understand it, or appreciate it.

Jones: They have no idea of even what our constitution means. Or the Bill of Rights, what it stands for.

Gage: Well if you talk, and I know something like the Patriot act was very controversial. But most students had no idea what it was. They didn't understand what they might lose if it went to a certain point. And that's the kind of thing I'm talking about. If you don't care one way or the other that's fine, but at least understand what rights might disappear. I think there is a danger in that. But those are the kinds of conversations we have. We're having one right now with free speech. But UNCW's role in this system will become more and more significant. And it will, whether it will have more of a medical focus down the road, whether there will be satellite law schools here. It just depends on what the state needs. It's not going to be based on anything but need.

Jones: Our school of nursing is wonderful. Our school of education is wonderful.

Gage: But they're not producing the teachers. We're looking at the bottom line. We're producing some, but not as many as the state expected this institution to. And Rosemary knows it. And everybody knows it. And that's going to have to change because what we see is there's two schools in the system that are really producing teachers. And then we're producing through lateral entry and it's through the community colleges. What may begin to happen along the way is you may begin to have high schools--

Jones: I was going to ask you about the college high schools.

Gage: You have that. All their AP courses are taught online in Virginia. So know we wring our hands over if there's a calculus teacher that can go to Hope County or to Columbus County. And is it fair for students there who are really, really good in math not to have that. So we're trying to produce more and more math and science teachers. Maybe the answer is that some of that will be online. And now that the School of Science and Math is within the university system we have some control over that. It's just in the last year it's become part of us. So we may not need teachers in the same way.

Jones: Is the internet coming as a viable teaching aid? You can study for your masters online now, I know that.

Gage: Well UNC online is undergraduate. It already has more classes than the University of Phoenix. We're already online. We're teaching--our growth, and most people don't know this and this is what I find stunning, our online growth is almost triple what our traditional growth is. We're not growing in traditional students anymore, not in a significant way. And you didn't know that and most people don't, and that's why it's all online. Because it's affordable, students can live at home and work. And get your degree online. It doesn't take away, nothing will ever replace what goes on here, but more students--everybody doesn't have the luxury to write that check and take four years off.

Jones: That was going to be one of my questions. With the growth and population and it's not going to stop with space--

Gage: We can't afford our space and this is one of the things, and when I became chairman I said, there are two things I want to do. One is straighten out our finances, because we've had audit problems on a lot of the campuses. But the real thing there is we've had such extraordinary growth that the infrastructure in many of the institutions didn't keep up. And they've made mistakes. UNCW is not one of those institutions, UNCW is operated at such a level, it operates like Chapel Hill. But every campus doesn't, so we're going to centralize a lot of the accounting functions, which needed to happen. We got too deregulated. And we were making mistakes and didn't have any control, we weren't aware of them. We're not unlike what's going on right now in the banking and the housing industry. We became too deregulated. We couldn't tap in at one point and see what the cash flow was on the campus. We couldn't see if all the financial aid was being handled right. And this is just the product of growth in a state that rammed up very fast because we had a bond issue that allowed us to accommodate these students. The largest bond issue in the history of the United States. Largest education bond issue: 3.2 billion dollars, we did it. We had a bond issue that was passed in the late '90s and for 3.2 billion it was a community college and university bond issue. We never have a university bond issue alone, it would never pass. We pass because of the community colleges. We never should forget that. It's not that people don't love us, but the community colleges, there's so many of them, counties turn out and vote for them. So we had this bond issue to accommodate this extraordinary growth and to also build the infrastructure in some of the smaller, historically black universities. And we did that. And so we opened the doors and we built the buildings, and the people came, but we didn't have all the systems in place to make sure that we managed everything well. So we made mistakes, and our audit showed that. Clean those up and the second thing, recognize that the model for secondary education in this country and in this state is no longer sustainable. The state of North Carolina cannot afford the university system as it exists today. We can't afford the bricks and mortar unless we utilize the buildings twelve months out of the year, 24/7. We can't afford to continue to build bricks and mortar, unless we do it very, very cautiously, because on our campus the facilities are only used 20 percent of the time. We can't heat and cool them, we have to heat and cool them all the time. It's all of them. If you drive by campus at four o'clock on a Friday afternoon, everybody's gone. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We can hardly maintain our (inaudible) budget, we can hardly maintain what we have right now. We're going to have to find ways to use our buildings better. And we're going to have to find ways to not expect every child to enter as a freshman, we can't afford it. We're going to have to take a big chunk of the population and let them go to the community colleges first.

Jones: Let me ask you this, this is a good time. The admissions group. Is it true they look to equalize the overload of the females, looking for more male students. How do they divvy up out-of-state admissions as opposed to in-state. Even though the out-of-state are going to pay more, they may have higher SAT tests. How do you reconcile all those things?

Gage: Delicately. But first of all you don't have out-of-state demand on all the campuses. So most campuses don't even deal with it.

Jones: Chapel Hill.

Gage: And UNCW. UNCW juggles, works hard to keep it at 18 percent. There is demand. Out-of-state students don't historically take the place of North Carolina students. So, you were asking two things. The first thing is the gender issue. The gender issue is a result of the system that, the system of trying to have some scientific way of looking at the volume that's coming through. All around the country people began to talk about enrollment management, a whole new term. And it's how you manage the in-state students and how you try to keep a decent balance. And it's not a science, it's an art when it gets down to it. There are people you hear about that didn't get in and if you look at the face value you won't understand why they didn't get in and someone else did. It may have been the other one was in music, the other one may have been . . . there's certain things they're doing we'll never understand. So there's no rules. No admissions department has any set rules. I think everybody would like--for lots of reasons, end of the day, multiple reasons you'd like to have a healthy balance of women and men. When you get to 73 that's not a healthy balance, culturally that's not healthy. The women are desperate for dates. It's a peculiar environment; it's not a good thing. But the problem we're confronting is that boys develop mentally behind girls. Girls get with the program immediately in the ninth grade. We came along you didn't have to form until the eleventh or twelfth grade. If you did well you could get into college. Now you have to really walk the straight and narrow ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. Girls can do that. They can get with the system, in most cases, more than boys. They can kind of follow the rules and they'll perform. They'll do what they have to do to get where they're going. Boys can't do it. Some can, but the majority of the boys, they wake up in the tenth, eleventh grade and really start hustling. It means they don't have the records, so admission struggles. And that's not going to change. All of it has a gap here and the gap and the reason for the gap, development, a whole lot of reasons. The boys catch up if you give them a year to grow up and mature. So we're going to be constantly juggling, but one answer for that is we move more students through as junior transfers. A whole lot of those boys that didn't get in as freshmen go to community college.

Jones: That's been a saving grace, hasn't it?

Gage: Absolutely.

Jones: Particularly this one here.

Gage: It's everywhere. It's all over the system. Particularly Chapel Hill, it's their answer to keeping a good balance.

Jones: I'm talking the quality of the community college. I think this one here is supposed to be--

Gage: It's amazing, it's amazing. And we've got many, many that are remarkable. Boys and girls can go there. If a family can't afford to send their child as a freshman, let them live at home and go to the community college, and get those first two years. They transfer, they do well. There's a higher percentage of boys who are doing that successfully in the system. It's a way to impact that issue of gender on every campus and it saves the state a fortune. So the two things that are going to make a four-year education affordable are going to be utilizing online heavily and utilizing the community colleges from this point on, in a way that we've never done. Right now you can finish earlier. There are a lot of students at Chapel Hill that take some of their courses online because they don't want to take a Friday course. They'll take two courses online. A lot of students are taking online courses to move through in three years. A lot of students, let's say you may be a senior and realize they're not offering a particular thing you didn't realize you had to have to graduate. And all of a sudden it's Christmas and you're not going to graduate because Chapel Hill doesn't have it next semester. UNC Greensboro has it online, all you have to do is take it online. You see and it's all offered through a central portal, it's all offered online. And it's been there. Any course you want to take and it's not offered where you are--there are kids here that are taking things they need to graduate online from the UNC portal. They're not even aware it's offered by ECU because they don't know where it's coming from.

Jones: Who oversees all of this?

Gage: We do. Board of governors.

Jones: Well then do you ever sleep? 32 people on that board?

Gage: There are people at general administration that do it. We are just the laymen. So all these things are being done. And there are big changes. There are all these big changes that have occurred.

Jones: I doubt sincerely that the general public is aware of all of this.

Gage: They're not aware at all.

Jones: They should be aware. It make your job easier.

Gage: Part of it is we don't have the money to market the online right now. But we resist it and traditional faculty resist, but it's been hard. We've seen, and it's been interesting to me that the school that's embraced it has been Eastern--ECU. ECU is at the forefront of online education. Greensboro is to, but ECU in particular. And what we realized is it was really driven by need. They had so many rural counties that the needed to serve, that people had to work, they had to work, but they needed an education. So they began first to do teacher ed. And then they got a big grant from Wachovia that was for the community colleges and ECU. But for some reason the faculty at ECU has embraced it. A traditional teacher doesn't like to do it in most cases. If you have a 58-year-old that always taught in a traditional fashion, and we say to them, "Please, we desperately need this psychology class online. There's students all over the system that need it." And they don't want to do it. And it's been interesting. So certain campuses have embraced it and some haven't. But it's not going to be an option down the road.

Jones: So there should be preparation in high school. Some of the high school courses.

Gage: Yeah. But now, like you said, we have early college. And we got students for whatever reason high school didn't work.

Jones: Hannah, let me ask you this. Do you suppose or does sports have any factor in the fact that boys might be a little later in catching on to things? So many fathers want their son to be the big jock, get a scholarship, play basketball, play football, whatever. Now through high school's the same thing. Friday night lights is just a big aura.

Gage: I don't think that's it. I think that plays a role--at work I'm always laughing about this, I say, "We will have made progress the day that I see as many men at Tuesday night PTA meetings with their sons that I see on the soccer field Saturday mornings coaching. We'll begin to push academics for boys. I mean and that day hadn't come. But the real thing is if you talk to anyone developmentally is the same reason you don't see boys get interested in girls. They're not interested in girls. You'll hear about girls that are girl-crazy, they're moving along faster then. It's developmental; it doesn't have anything to do with the environment. Developmentally their world is different. Now what we see is when the fire is lit they pass girls. They usually pass them in college or later in life. But I don't know how you force it, I think, I always felt that a year of national service was good for all students, but boys benefited even more than girls, because they just mature.

Jones: I think it's right, as a citizen, they should give something.

Gage: Yeah, yeah. I think that the country, I do--and you see that part of Mike Easley's plan one of the "learn and earn" is, there is a service component, that you have to earn it, and part of it is doing something within this state that will be designated. So we're coming back to some of those--I guess history's full circle. I think the university as we see it today, here, in South Eastern North Carolina, is poised for great change, and I don't think traditional education is going to disappear. But there is a wonderful thing I read, you know (inaudible) is not changed a lot in 3000 years, and Jim Leutze used to say to me it's a medieval guild. And he meant it in a nice way. You know thousands and thousands of years ago you went to a central library, and that's where you got all of your information. And you had to go there for your information, and that's where people were taught. And that's where research was done and more information was produced and it went out. Well now, you don't have to go to a university to get your information. MIT has their entire curriculum online free. Online free. You can't get their degree, you can't graduate with an MIT degree. Yale--Yale has Yale open, you can get a Yale education online free. Princeton's going there. All of them are going there. Harvard--Harvard's online now. Harvard business school is online. They realize, and it is the democratization of education, and we're seeing it here, it is scary to people who think about it traditionally. But for those of us in public education, it's the most exciting thing that's ever happened because it's affordable. Somebody, you know, that's living on a farm, you know, out in the North Eastern part of North Carolina can get a college degree and never leave home.

Jones: Let me ask you this, has the subject ever come up about so much of opening a person's mind at any age, is the give and take in conversation between students and an instructor. Is the exchange of ideas, talk about early teaching, that's what so much of that was, and you don't have that online do you?

Gage: You do. And interestingly--

Jones: They're talking back and forth.

Gage: Well now, and you've got a screen now. They have their own cameras. So anytime, interestingly, because we're following this very closely, especially the pharmacy program Chapel Hill does with Elizabeth City. When you ask a question there, online, they're taking classes online, the camera actually comes up on your desk and you talk face to face with the faculty member. So that's an example of a distance-set class. So you feel very connected and it's immediate. But online what's interesting, Molly Broad, when she was president of our system, took a Spanish class online, and it was Thursday nights. And she did it because she wanted to try it, and she would leave, she was always up there on Thursday nights and she would leave. "Oh, I got a test. I'm in a group and we've got to practice." Well they had their microphones and their cameras, and the four of them were practicing their dialogue, before the teacher joined them so that--it was just like sitting around. But the thing that's been the most interesting is the technology has enabled a large class, where you might not have raised your hand in a Political-Science 401 class with 300 students. Like your daughter that went to UNCG. Online you're really unaware of how big the class is, and so when you have a question you ask it and immediately the teacher can answer you. Now it may be with a camera, it may be without a camera. But you don't feel surrounded by students, it feels personal. So as the technology improves, some of those barriers, and a lot of it has to do with the faculty members, and the faculty also thinks, they feel very connected with the students. So it's--now I'm sure some don't, and as we move forward we work out kinks, but I don't think it is considered inferior now, it's considered different. It's a different methodology. As it becomes more sophisticated, it's kind of like the Jetsons. You can sit there and talk to them.

Jones: I can see where this would be a particular boom to people who are people with children that have to stay home, handicapped people.

Gage: Well I always wondered why--I would bump into people on the Wachovia board, when they said they were going to school to get their BA I'd say, "Where?" I'd assume it be here, because we were here. They were getting it from East Carolina. Never made any sense to me until finally I cornered somebody and I said, "Why?" They said, "East Carolina offers it online and I can do it at my own pace. And I work 60 hours a week." Well Harvard finally, and Duke finally got it. You know, you've got a lot of families, you know, if you're getting a Master's Degree, you may be 28, you may have a wife and a child, and you can't afford to just stop working and go to school full time. But you want to improve yourself and improve your options, so taking something that gives you the flexibility; I mean we need flexibility in our lives now. So along with that the other interesting things we've seen as people get degrees, well degrees, a lot of people think that we shouldn't have traditional degrees, that we won't ultimately have them, we will have competency exams, much like a CPA. So if you chose on your own, you Carroll, from MIT, you could go online free, MIT offers all the courses, and then you could go take an exam. But I mean it's an option for people so the ground is moving. I think of them as add-ons, they're add-ons to traditional, they're not replacing it. That's what we try to talk to the chancellors about, and Rosemary understands that. But it still, it feels threatening, because--

Jones: You know, some people will be harder to change. I think my husband had an opportunity at one point, when we were still living in the Washington area, to get his PhD with the University of Southern California system. They would come east once a month, spend an entire weekend up in a hotel over there and he would go Friday, Saturday, and finish Sunday. And it was intensive, absolutely intensive. He would do his work and have it ready to send out then in the following month he would come back. I said, "Why are you doing this? You don't need that, do you?" "I might if I'm going to teach on a regular campus, etc." He lectures and so forth. The thing that got him was the length of time, he didn't feel like--it was so crammed together. Now I imagine online you can feel far more relaxed then having a weekend when you're with a certain group and it's cramming.

Gage: You may do it over four years instead of three. See, and that is an extraordinary option for a lot of families. You know one of the things that's hard to recognize and it jumped out at me four or five years ago, it didn't sink it, they done a study of people that have graduated from Harvard business school, and where they were five years out, how much money they were making, minus the debt that incurred--which in many cases was extraordinary. Though it certainly had the brand it made it hard for a lot of people. But they began to compare where those students were compared to other MBA students around the country, and they discovered something that, to me, was fascinating. There were people who had gotten their MBA degree online, totally online, from companies--from schools I have never heard of from the Midwest, that had graduated in however many years, that had worked the whole time, so they had not incurred any debt. Well maybe minor debt, a couple thousand dollars. Five years out they were making, it was like 127 thousand dollars, which was about the average. Five years out the Harvard students were making the same amount, but they had 100 thousand dollars in debt. So the online students from the Midwest were way ahead of them. The general public hadn't grasped that yet, hadn't grasped the difference between a brand school education and other institutions. There's not that much difference. And, maybe that experience while you're there, but in terms of what it gives you and where you go afterwards, you can get it for less. I would put a student who graduated from this institution against a student that graduates from any institution.

Jones: There's probably not as much of the good ol' boy network that used to exist. But if you attended, let's go back again to the USC which is a private school. And you wanted to go into banking, or any kind of business that you would be looked at first, you know, etc.

Gage: You'd get in the door. I think you still get in the door.

Jones: You have to prove yourself no matter what.

Gage: Yeah, but if you look at who's running the four or five hundred companies. Who's begun, it's shifted and it will continue to shift, and it will be a lot more global. So I think in North Carolina and in South Eastern North Carolina, we are on the forefront, our system has recognized that to continue to be a strong system, affordable for people in this state, fifty years from now, we will utilize all these components. And the students, the students don't have any barriers about piecing their education together. You'll see students graduate that may have come from the community college, done some online, may finish up here. And they won't think twice about this patchwork quilt that has become their education. And that wasn't the case even five years ago.

Jones: Let me ask you then about another difference. We have some students who traditionally come here--I've met some of them who are not your traditional students, they're your older students, who may not have, who decided they want a traditional degree. They come from overseas, whether it's England, mostly England, Germany, we have France, a few, Spain, practically none. They come here--I've met several, they've become good friends--to UNCW, spend a year, and they are paying somehow, a university system in England. They're transfer students, hands across the sea kind of thing. And I'd not heard of that until I met this one woman particularly, we talked about it. How does that work?

Gage: Well she's paying who? Who for tuition? I don't understand.

Jones: Well my understanding was she got cut in tuition as a student here, because she was--

Gage: Was she military?

Jones: No, she was a British subject and she came here to finish getting a degree, it was a history degree in ancient books.

Gage: Well it was probably exchange, more than likely. I would think, but I don't know.

Jones: There's been a handful of them, and I've been amazed to find so many of them. And it's here particularly at UNCW, Southeastern North Carolina.

Gage: Yeah, I don't know, but I would assume we got exchange institutions so maybe--

Jones: I know we have young students that go and exchange families.

Gage: I don't think it's just young. And the other thing we've done is changing the rules so that military families that are living at Camp Lejeune are going to be there for a while, get an in-state break rather than having to pay in-state tuition. We did that simply because there was such huge need there at Fort Bragg for there to be a source for them to stay educated. Some of them are doing continuing degrees. Well, and they settle, a lot of them settle here.

Jones: Hannah, this has been, and we can go on.

Gage: I've told you a whole lot more than you want to know, I know. (Laughs)

Jones: No, no, it really, it opens up--this is such a critical issue, education.

Gage: Yeah, it is. And it's changing faster--

Jones: I had really no idea until this morning how in depth the Board of Governors--how much time do you spend.

Gage: A lot.

Jones: But you're traveling back and forth all the time.

Gage: I am. But it's more when you're chairman, and it's one of those boards where you can spend as much time as you want to. And I was lucky because--

Jones: And do you all meet at the same time?

Gage: We do, once a month. But I meet in between committees and--everybody; it's structured very much like it is here. You have a specific committee. If you're chairman you kind of oversee, you appoint the committee chairs. It's fun, it's interesting, it'll be a challenge this year. I'm coming in at a bad time because the money's run out. The fun's over.

Jones: Being chairman, you're prime for it.

Gage: I'm ready for it. We have a good president, Erskine Bowles is a magnificent leader, so I'm very, very lucky.

Jones: Is there a time you might run for senate or governor, or whatever?

Gage: Yeah, I tried that a couple of times, it didn't work out. But you know what he says, and it's so true, all that prepared him was getting ready for this job. It was, I think he's right where he needed to be.

Jones: How long a term do you have?

Gage: This is two years, and hopefully I'll be reappointed, I've been on the board for, I'm going into my eighth year. You can stay on the board for twelve years, I'll have to be reappointed this spring. So I guess if I don't make the senate made, I'll be reappointed for another four-year term. And I'll have, you know, another year and a half as chair, and then I could run again, if I wanted to, who knows. All I'm looking at right now is getting through the tuition discussion which is always a battle.

Jones: Down the road is there anything you want to do that you haven't done?

Gage: No. I'm living in a community that's really interesting, I like it here.

Jones: You're a workaholic too.

Gage: No, I'm really not. You know, my husband is an architect and he likes what he does. I probably have more time--the only thing that has surprised me a little bit in moving from a board of trustees to a board of governors. I spend as much time on other campuses and their issues as I do the one here. And a lot of people say, "I wonder what happened to you, I never see you here." And I may be working on something that's going on in UNC Asheville. There may be problems at NC State. And so you can't give the same attention, you can do it when you're a board member, you know, which I did. But now that I'm chair you really have to be careful, you have to give every campus the same attention and you can't be too aligned with what you want to happen here. That's a delicate dance, but the good news is there are a lot of people who believe in this institution on our board that can carry our torch for me.

Jones: I hope so. Well I've become a believer; of course I had no choice.

Gage: Y'all are both in the right place.

Jones: I know I am. I've been asked so many times, "How in the world did you get so involved in Southeastern North Carolina?" I said, "I had no choice." I married a man who was just steeped in it. And frankly it's a lot more wholesome than living in the west coast.

Gage: And there are interesting people here.

Jones: Yes I do, and there is a wide variety of people who are settling here, and as I said early on that part of the reason I do this program is that it amazes me the quality of people we have, who are settling here, who have settled here. Who have taken this area to heart, who have learned the history of it, preserving it, adding onto it.

Gage: Bloom where you grow.

Jones: Yeah. I think the most fascinating part is the art community. They're all from somewhere else, except for a couple. Why did you come here?

Gage: I think I'll close by saying I came, I moved from Fayetteville, North Carolina to Wilmington. Even though I had Washington, I had things in between, I was a Fayetteville native. That, contrary to its reputation, is an extraordinary community, because of the military. You always have people coming in who have had different bases of experience, and different perspectives. It was really a fascinating place to be, and when I first moved here in 1981 this wasn't. It simply wasn't, I don't mind saying it. It was narrow in how it looked at the world. I was cautious about--I edited myself constantly because there was one way of looking at things. And maybe that was my perception, it may not have been true. But during the last 25 years it has changed dramatically because many people came in with different perspectives. And I think the local people enjoyed that, at first resisted it, and then they became friends. I think at the first community I lived in, in the historic district, they were all Wilmingtonians. Wild, eccentric, the only people that would live downtown then. You know, society tolerated eccentricities back in those days. But I think what's happened is it's become a much more interesting place. And I-40 did that, growth did that, the university did that.

Jones: Your friend Bob Warner, and mine, told my husband, he said, "I see, down the road, that Wilmington is going to be the jewel, in the middle of that growth. People will live in Brunswick, they will come to Wilmington for entertainment.

Gage: Cultural hub, no question. And I think the role that this institution has played, I mean the people who have come here, to work here, or to go to school here that stay. It is a powerful magnet for progressive ideas and--

Jones: There are a lot of things here for the retirees, for the young people. The symphonies now, ballet, art, lectures, etc, it's good.

Gage: I have a basis of comparison because I've lived in a community that had a university, that was not a significant player. And that's Fayetteville State University. Which, and I love that institution, but it was a historically black school that didn't reach out. It is trying desperately now to do that. But to live there in a community that has a university that is not fully integrated into the way of life, and to come here and see the difference. No way to compare what is added by this institution. So we're all lucky. We can end on that note, right?

Jones: Thank you, Hannah, it's been marvelous.

Gage: Thank you, it's been fun.

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