CHAPEL HILL, NC – A unique series of “Downton Abbey”-inspired photographs created by residents of the Carolina Meadows retirement community will be on display at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Retired Faculty Reception being held March 23.
The third-annual reception, sponsored by the UNC-CH William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education, takes place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education’s Atrium area. About 100 retired UNC-CH professors and administrators are expected to attend. The event will include light refreshments and piano playing by Ken Broun, a retired UNC law school professor.
During the reception, guests also will have the opportunity to view 13 recently revealed “Downton Meadows” portraits. A number of “behind the scenes” photos chronicling the creation of the project also will be on display.”
“We are very excited that these stunning ‘Downton Meadows’ photos will be available for viewing during this year’s Retired Faculty Reception,” said Virginia Taylor, UNC-CH community and university relations coordinator for the Friday Center. “They add another fun element to our event, which grows more and more popular each year.”
The first Retired Faculty Reception was held at the Friday Center in 2013. Based on the success of that event, a decision was made to hold a Retired Faculty Reception once a year each spring at the Friday Center. The Friday Center now serves as the home of the Retired Faculty Association, formed in 1986 to help retired UNC-CH faculty maintain meaningful ties through service and continuing contributions to the academic community.
Taylor added that nearly 60 retired UNC-CH faculty members live at Carolina Meadows, “so there’s a strong connection between the Retired Faculty Association and this active community of retirees.”
Carolina Meadows resident Susan Gaca came up with the idea for “Downton Meadows” last year, after flipping through books highlighting the show’s costumes, characters and settings. Gaca and residents Chris Kesner and Carol Lehmann thought that creating a series of show-inspired portraits would be an effective way to raise awareness and money for a cause the community supports every year – the annual UNC-TV fundraiser.
After finding a skilled photographer – Jack Benjamin, a retired UNC pediatrics professor – to work pro-bono and lining up costumes on loan from PlayMakers Repertory Company and Bernard’s Formalwear, organizers began casting residents for the photo project. Dozens joined the effort, designing room settings and modeling for the portraits, which capture the creative spirit of the show and the community.
Models included Carolina Meadows resident Don Stedman, current president of the UNC-CH Retired Faculty Association and a member of the Friday Center board. Stedman posed as Lord Grantham for one of the shots.
The “Downton Meadows” photos were unveiled to the public on Friday, Feb. 21, at a “Downton-Abbey” themed dinner held at Carolina Meadows two days prior to the start of the UNC-TV fund drive.
On March 18, more than 30 Carolina Meadows residents volunteered their time at the UNC-TV studio, answering phone calls and gathering pledges. This year, Carolina Meadows residents and their company matching programs raised more than $25,650 in just one month, contributing to the importance of North Carolina’s 12-station public broadcasting system.
Don Stedman posing as Lord Grantham
UNC also has a deep relationship with UNC-TV. In fact, the first episode of this year’s latest season of “Downton Abbey” aired at the university’s Friday Center prior to public broadcast as part of a special promotion.
The upcoming Friday Center reception is open to any retired UNC-CH faculty member or administrator who would like to attend. For further information, call Virginia Taylor, UNC-CH community and university relations coordinator, at (919) 962-1618.