A tribute to the late Dr. Nancy Vacc

Posted on January 22, 2024

Dr. Nancy Vacc near Vacc Bell Tower

Dr. Nancy N. Vacc, professor emerita and tremendous friend to our University, has passed away. She was 84.  

She served as professor of curriculum and instruction from 1987 to 2003, directing Curriculum and Instruction Graduate Studies. During that time, she earned the UNCG School of Education Teaching Excellence Award in and the UNCG Research Excellence Award for junior faculty. Dr. Nicholas A. Vacc, her late husband, was the Joe Rosenthal Excellence Professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Development at UNCG for 23 years and served as department chair from 1986 to 1996.  

Dr. Nancy Vacc had a long and generous history of supporting UNCG through transformative gifts that truly elevated our University. 

  • Constructed in 2005, the Nicholas A. Vacc Memorial Bell Tower, one of the iconic sights on campus, was made possible through her generosity. She also provided for the landscaping and lighting, and in 2015 funded additional bells, allowing for the playing of any melody including the school’s alma mater. She attended the first playing of a song on the 49-bell carillon, aptly “Carol of the Bells,” in a joyful December 2015 ceremony. 
  • Endowed in 2008, the Nicholas A. and Nancy N. Vacc Distinguished Professorship also elevates the University, helping to uplift exceptional faculty and their work. Novelist Michael Parker in UNCG’s MFA Writing Program was the first Vacc Distinguished Professor in 2014. Dr. Michael Kane in Psychology currently holds this distinguished professorship. 
  • The Nancy N. Vacc Doctoral Fellowship in Elementary Education and the Nicholas A. Vacc Doctoral Fellowship in Counselor Education will make an impact in the School of Education for generations of students.  
  • The Nicholas A. Vacc Counseling & Consulting Clinic at UNCG is supported in part by her generosity.  

In 2016, she created one of the largest planned gifts in UNCG Athletics history to endow the Vacc Women’s Golf Scholarship.  

“Nancy Vacc, with her great heart and generous spirit, not only unselfishly gave the university impactful resources, but helped shape our campus, inform our values, and move us forward,” Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. said. “She literally changed UNCG’s landscape by creating the structure her husband, Nicholas, had envisioned when he was department head of one of our most distinguished programs, Counseling and Educational Development. The sounds of the Vacc Bell Tower lift our spirits and hurry us along. As a professor, Nancy exemplified excellence and leadership in her discipline. Her unflagging support of the Vacc Clinic, the Vacc Distinguished Professorship, two doctoral fellowships, and Women’s Golf scholarship all exemplify the love and loyalty she had for this university.” 
Nancy Vacc received her EdD, curriculum and teaching, in 1985 at UNCG. She earned her master’s in elementary education and reading from State University College, Fredonia, NY, and her bachelor’s in music from State University of New York at Potsdam, Crane School of Music. 
Before joining UNCG’s faculty, she taught at Bennett College, NC State University, the University of Florida, and the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She also taught elementary school in New York for 13 years and middle school in North Carolina for six years — and was a 4-H county agent in New York. 
In 2009, she received the UNCG School of Education Distinguished Service Award. She served on the School of Education’s Advisory Board, 2005-2017. 

Dr. L. DiAnne Borders, Burlington Industries Excellence Professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Development, knew Nancy and Nicholas Vacc well. “Nancy Vacc was a renowned scholar in math education. She and Nicholas made quite the esteemed academic pair — yet a very humble pair. It was obvious that they were devoted to each other. 

“All of Nancy’s gifts to the University will have lasting impacts on campus life. The fellowships and scholarship will provide much needed student support. The professorship will enhance the research profile of its recipients. Her gifts to the Vacc Counseling & Consulting Clinic will continue to provide a state-of-the-art training experience for future counselors and counselor educators, as well as low-cost mental health services for the campus and surrounding community. Most visibly, her generosity has graced our campus with the Vacc Bell Tower, an elegant reminder of both Nancy and Nicholas. But what I will most remember about Nancy, the person, was her sincere optimism and genuine, warm attention to each person she met. Her smile was radiant, full of her light, joy, and beauty.” 

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