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In memoriam: Mel Adair ’76, alumna and supporter of the School

Retired social worker and fervent supporter of the School, Melvarene “Mel” Johnson Howard Adair, 83, of Raleigh, passed away peacefully on Dec. 20, 2012.

Adair grew up in Dunn, N.C., and earned a B.S. degree in sociology from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1951. After graduation, she married Kenneth Felton Howard, Jr., a 1952 UNC alumnus, and had two sons, Kenneth and Thomas. She returned to UNC and earned her MSW degree in 1976, and then worked for social services in Warren, Harnett and New Hanover Counties.

Embracing her adventurous spirit, she put her name in the national Social Work Registry and then began a cross-country road trip. When offered a position in Sheridan, Wyo., at the Veterans’ Administration Hospital, she moved to Sheridan where she met and married Herbert C. Adair. They eventually moved to Jackson Hole, Wyo., and traveled extensively throughout the west. Adair lived in Jackson Hole for many years and never lost her love for this area of the country. She moved back to North Carolina in 1996 to be near family, but enjoyed returning to Wyoming for visits.

Her life slowed some in retirement, but she remained involved with the School of Social Work, serving as a member of the Board of Advisors.

In 2008, she established a charitable gift annuity with the UNC Foundation, directing $1.4 million to the School of Social Work – one of the largest gifts in the School’s history.

The money will create an endowment for the Johnson-Howard-Adair Distinguished Professorship, and will add to an existing scholarship, which was created by Adair’s son, Kenneth Howard — who is also a UNC alumnus — in his mother’s honor.

“Mel was a special person — a generous, funny, free spirit who was ahead of her time. I will miss her so much,” said Mary Beth Hernandez, associate dean for advancement. “She loved the profession of social work, and her memory will live on through the Adair Scholarship and the Johnson-Howard-Adair Professorship, which will be one of the largest professorship funds at the School.”