Royster Society of Fellows

Defining Excellence:
The History of the Royster Society

The Royster Society of Fellows was created through the vision and generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas S. Royster in 1996. This interdisciplinary fellowship program enables the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to meet the challenge of attracting exceptionally talented graduate students from around the world and support them with generous financial funding and unique opportunities to reach their highest level of academic success.

The name “Royster” has become synonymous with the very best in graduate fellowship opportunity. Since 1996, more than 400 graduate students from throughout the nation and world have come to Carolina as members of the Royster Society of Fellows. They have made meaningful contributions through research with real-world impact, undergraduate teaching, and outreach to communities within the University and across the state.

The name “Royster” has become synonymous with the very best in graduate fellowship opportunity.

In addition to the five-year Fellows, the Royster Society of Fellows also includes an outstanding group of dissertation Fellows. During the past 16 years, many generous private donors have endowed one-year dissertation fellowships within the Royster Society. These fellowships give students an unparalleled opportunity of time and funding so they may concentrate full-time on completing their dissertations. The fellowship names are tangible reminders of steadfast supporters of graduate education.

The Royster Society has benefited from a series of committed faculty who have encouraged and nurtured Fellows in the Royster Society to the highest levels of achievement.

In 2009, the University established the Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professorship for Graduate Education in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Royster’s commitment to graduate education. This professorship was made possible by a lead gift from Dr. and Mrs. Royster along with matching funds from the state’s faculty endowment trust. Professor Julia Wood was selected as the inaugural Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education, from 2009 to 2012. Professor David Pfennig was selected from a group of eminent faculty as the Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education for 2012-2015. Professor Marsha Collins was selected as the Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education for 2016-2018.

The Roysters were awarded the University’s Light on the Hill Award in September 2006 in honor of their dedication to Carolina by then-Chancellor James Moeser. The award recognizes exceptional individuals who have advanced the University in teaching, research and service, benefiting its community of students, faculty and staff. While Dr. Royster passed away in 2008, Mrs. Royster remains a committed benefactor to the Society this visionary couple made possible.

Exploring North Carolina: Royster Society of Fellows Project