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Finding his purpose, doing well, doing good

Full classroom with Nick Didow speaking to students

Hailing from Monroe, North Carolina, Nick Didow (BSBA ’70, MBA ’73) is a double Tar Heel who worked as assistant director of the Full-Time MBA Program before he headed to Northwestern to earn his PhD.

Carolina called him back home and he joined the faculty as a marketing professor, and for more than 40 years, he has served his students, the Business School, the University and the state of North Carolina.

His remarkable commitment to public service throughout his career was recognized with the Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award on University Day, when UNC celebrated its 227th birthday, on Oct. 12, 2020.

The award recognizes outstanding service by a UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member. “In your case, it honors your excellence and leadership in public service and civic engagement activities on campus in the community and in the state,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz wrote in a letter to Didow. “From launching the Center for Public Service to your service on the school board to your involvement with the Food Bank of North Carolina, you have provided an exemplary of service all while serving as a respected professor and champion of sustainability. Your dedication to service is evident in so many ways, and provides inspiration to many on this campus and beyond.”

Nick Didow with STAR January 2020 Ambassador Team and Karin Cochrane

Didow with a STAR team and Karin Cochran, his STAR colleague and former student

Didow has worked with hundreds of community leaders to improve the quality of life in their communities and bring progress and opportunity for the citizens of North Carolina. Working directly with dozens and dozens of businesses, communities and nonprofits to help them become more mission effective and sustainable. His record of service is broad and deep:

  • Launching the Carolina Center for Public Service and the Chapel Hill Downtown Economic Development Corporation, now known as the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.
  • Serving three terms as an elected member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ Board of Education
  • Participating in UNC task forces addressing labor code and licensing issues
  • Leading the University’s efforts in Hurricane Floyd recovery
  • Developing and deploying the $144 million Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative bringing fiber-optic middle mile infrastructure to 67 of North Carolina’s most rural counties
  • Organizing rural food banks to make them more efficient and have greater impact
  • Working with the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Office of the Governor to develop and implement a new brand and logo for the State of North Carolina
  • Providing consulting services to businesses and nonprofits such as the North Carolina Zoo, Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center in Red Springs and a hospital’s women’s department in Zambia through the STAR program
  • Leading a major innovative project to deploy last mile broadband to families, farms and businesses in 10 underserved and unserved counties in eastern North Carolina.

Didow accepted the award in grateful appreciation for the “many other engaged faculty, committed staff, passionate students and visionary community and business leaders” with whom he has partnered over the years.

The Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award is a special reminder of three priorities at Carolina that give us purpose and direction,” he said. “These three priorities are excellent research, excellent teaching and excellent service and engagement with the people of North Carolina, and beyond. These words matter.”

These priorities have “articulated the important mission of our university in the life of North Carolina for over 227 years now,” he said. “They also remind us of the needs and expectations people across the state and beyond have for us, each and every day.”

Nick Didow smiles Caludia Malhotra at 2019 UNC Kenan-Flagler Commencement

Didow and Professor Claudia Kubowicz Malhotra at 2019 commencement

In May 2019, Didow gave the commencement address for the Undergraduate Business Program. He talked about his wishes for them as well as their duty to the University and the Business School.

“Perhaps the challenge of your duty was best articulated by former UNC President Bill Friday years ago when he said, ‘Every morning a million North Carolinians get up and go to work for wages which leave them below the poverty line so they can pay taxes that finance the education you receive at Carolina. Your job is to figure out how you’re going to pay them back.’”  

Didow suggested the graduates pay back everyone by living with three priorities: Find your purpose, do well and do good.

Those are words he has lived by for over four decades. He found his purpose, he did well and he did good.

Read more about Didow in this profile by Poets & Quants when it named him one of the top 50 undergraduate professors of 2018.