The Dis and the Phis, version 2

3 Mar

The Dis and the Phis

Updated by John O’Connor, Phi, Class of 2011, to reflect portrait move

So you want to learn the Dis and the Phis,

As doing so will make you wise.

Well I can help you realize

That the best way is not to memorize,

But rather, to come up with a clever rhyme,

And after some practice and given some time,

You’ll know them all like the back of your hand.

It’s really quite easy, you’ll understand.

Let’s start at the front with William R. Davie,

Who’s hung with importance, as well should be,

He was governor, too, but more importantly,

He sponsored the bill to found UNC.

Marion Butler was a senator, and that’s cool.

In Mecklenburg County there’s a Butler High School.

He was also President of the Farmer’s Alliance,

And his beard is so lovely it’s a marvel of science.

O. Max Gardner was governor of NC,

One of the best I’m sure you’ll agree.

He led our state during the Great Depression,

Improving our lot was his total obsession.

Moving on down the line, we come to a bust.

But must we cover the busts? Why yes, yes we must!

It’s William H. Bobbitt, with a great choice of careers:

He was NC Supreme Court Chief Justice for five years.

And then there was Polk, first initials J.K.

The greatest president of the U. S. of A.

The greatest president, you heard me quite right,

For he doubled the size of the nation overnight.

Next is A.D. Murphey, for whom the hall is well named

A fierce voice for education is his claim to fame

Free schooling to all is for what he gave support

A fact which I am quite pleased to report.

Yet another governor was John Motley Morehead,

Whose receding hairline shows off his large forehead.

Upon him was this honor bestowed:

President of the North Carolina Railroad.

After Morehead, the very next governor of this state

Was William A. Graham; but there’s more to say, wait!

Secretary of the Navy, and a senator, too;

That’s quite a few jobs for just one man to do!

James Mebane was a politician, as you may have guessed,

But something about him is not like the rest:

He was the first ever president of the Dialectic Society.

Truly he was a man of propriety.

(Or perhaps, not propriety, but rather notoriety,

Like Senator Pham and her lack of sobriety[1].)

He was one of the first ever students at UNC,

But after two years he left without a degree.

Our fourth governor so far was David L. Swain,

But University President was another title he’d attain,

A title he held for nearly half of his life;

He kept UNC open during Civil War strife.

Now if I can briefly divert your attention,

There’s someone not here who I’d like to mention,

And that’s Elisha Mitchell. What was his claim to fame?

He fell off the mountain that now bears his name.

Thomas Clingman was a congressman and soldier as well,

But it’s said he’s the reason why poor Mitchell fell.

He’s shown with hand raised, as if he had said,

“Just a bit farther, Mitchell.” And now Mitchell’s dead[2].

Paul Cameron was a big slaveholder, that can’t be denied,

But just for a moment, put that fact aside.

He took a large sum of money and donated it all

So UNC could erect Memorial Hall.

He paid for scholarship funds, in addition,

And Cameron Avenue is named in his recognition[3].

Now I hope that every student at Chapel Hill

Can recognize this novelist who hails from Asheville.

Thomas Wolfe of pure heart, bright mind, and sharp pen

Wrote Look Homeward, Angel and You Can’t Go Home Again.

Samuel J. Ervin, Jr. is the next bust here,

And he was a man whom we all should revere.

A U.S. Senator for twenty years, he fought in World War One,

But now on to the next portrait, as the busts are all done.

Hanging next to Wolfe is Zebulon B. Vance,

Soldier, Senator, Governor, and Writer perchance,

Who filled the coffers of DiPhi with riches,

In a speech that kept his audience in stitches.

Mr. Charles Aycock is tucked in this nook,

He truly knew the value of a book.

He created quite the sensation,

When he died giving a speech on universal education.

Charles D. McIver is the last portrait here,

He certainly had a most storied career.

He was the first president of UNCG,

As well as of the NC Teachers’ Assembly.

Who knows of whom the next portrait will be?

It could be anyone here—could be you, could be me.

But we must always remember the men of our past,

For our history is something we should always hold fast.

Thus concludes my non-ritualistic circumambulation

To give you a bit of Di-Phi information

About those men, who deserve some appreciation,

For they found as their source of inspiration

Virtue, liberty, and knowledge, their motivation

To overcome any negative situation

Through persistence and determination;

They stood on these principles with all dedication

And passed them on to the next generation,

Regardless of graduation or occupation,

Without expectation of any compensation;

Now their fascination with communication

Is cause for our admiration, if not celebration,

For as we continue with our education,

We hold with these men an association:

With greatness as its connotation;

For we all share the same affiliation:

Di-Phi. God bless this organization!


[1] Senator Pham is the sister of President Emeritus Pham, mentioned in the previous poem.

[2] Elisha Mitchell (1793-1857) was a professor at UNC. He measured the height of what would later be called Mount Mitchell and proved that it was the highest point east of the Mississippi River. When he returned to Mount Mitchell to verify his measurements, he fell to his death over Mitchell Falls. As rumor has it, Thomas Clingman (1812-1897) was a student of his and didn’t trust his first measurement. When they returned to the mountain, Clingman continued to wave him on, saying, “Just a bit farther,” whereupon Mitchell fell to his death. In Clingman’s portrait, he is shown with his right arm and hand raised, as if waving to Mitchell to go further.

[3] Paul Carrington Cameron (1808-1891) was actually one of the biggest slaveholders in North Carolina history. As a result, he became very wealthy. After the Civil War, he donated a large sum of money so UNC could memorialize those who lost their lives in the war. A new building was erected for such a purpose, named Memorial Hall, and the street in front of Memorial Hall, now called Cameron Avenue, was named to honor Paul Cameron.

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2 Responses to “The Dis and the Phis, version 2”

  1. Erica P. 06/02/2011 at 12:18 AM #

    To be fair, the original poem mentioned PE Pham who did like the drink a wee bit, whereas I do not believe current President Emma Pham likes to drink as much…

    • apham 03/21/2012 at 6:28 PM #

      Lies! President Emerita Pham is a full blooded Pham and as such drinks. Also, please add the Phi Ode.

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