A Q&A with Dwight Jacobs ’87, co-chair of the ACRED American Indian Subcommittee
Carolina alum and donor Dwight Jacobs ’87 is a co-chair, along with Johanna Karas ’91, of the ACRED American Indian Subcommittee. A native of Orangeburg, South Carolina, Jacobs is a certified public accountant and currently serves as senior vice president, supply chain and chief procurement officer for Duke Energy. His entire family bleeds Carolina blue: his wife, Moira, his daughter, Martha, and his son, Jacob, all graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. In addition to his role with ACRED, Jacobs is a former member of the UNC Board of Visitors (2008-12) and the board of visitors for UNC Children’s Hospital.
We touched base with Jacobs to learn more about the American Indian Subcommittee, its challenges and aspirations, and why he finds participating in ACRED so fulfilling.
Why is the American Indian Subcommittee important?
There haven’t been many organizations that have afforded me an opportunity to learn and grow as a Lumbee Indian. My parents left our tribal area as young adults to explore other parts of the Carolinas in pursuit of job opportunities. Therefore my brothers and I didn’t grow up around our Lumbee extended family. While we always felt comfortable together as a family, we didn’t always feel comfortable out there in the world somewhat by ourselves. Reconnecting with other American Indians through ACRED has re-energized me about my heritage.
What drives you to serve?
For me, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today without the help I’ve received from others. My mother was widowed and worked in a high school cafeteria. Without others, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to advance in my education. As a first-generation college student, I could not have afforded my education without the people who helped me go to college and succeed. Shame on me if I don’t give back as so many people have helped me along my journey.
What are some of the subcommittee’s goals and challenges?
Our goals and our challenges are intertwined. We want to identify ways to increase alumni participation. We are growing, and it would be nice to have more active members across all ages and all career stages — early career, experienced, retirees, everyone! This more well-rounded participation would strengthen our outreach and provide more diverse points of view.
Recently, we held the first of many virtual gatherings for American Indian alumni and friends to share updates and provide a space for engagement. We hope to continue this series and hear from students on a more frequent basis. At the end of the day, we want Carolina students to be successful, and we want to help in that process.
Another challenge we’ve faced as a subcommittee is the recent departure of the American Indian Center director. We are still processing and asking questions about next steps toward securing the future of the AIC.
How can ACRED members help? Get involved?
As we seek to build membership, we want everyone to be active on a subcommittee, and then we want ideas for increasing our alumni engagement. Together, we can create a space where everyone is and feels valued. I’d also note that it’s not just about giving money to Carolina. Everyone has something to offer; time is also valuable and important.
Why is it important for alumni to get involved and give back?
Simply put, we need to pay it forward — whether that means taking care of our planet, our children, or our education system. Alumni involvement in ACRED is not the only way to pay it forward, but it is a way to connect with others who are passionate about giving back.
What is new and/or improved in this space?
ACRED has matured and has an impactful voice. In recent years, the committee seems to be so much more professional, organized and respected by the University — the chancellor attends our meetings, shares updates with our members and responds to our questions. I’ve admired how our subcommittee members have asked hard questions: “How about the American Indians? How are they impacted in this research/data/program?” It’s not just a black-and-white set of issues. ACRED taps into all these areas, and maybe there are others — not just racial and ethnic groups — to think about, as well.
Do you have any recent successes to share?
The Carolina Native community really stepped up on GiveUNC 2021. We focused efforts on supporting the American Indian Center, and members of the subcommittee set up challenges to encourage fellow Tar Heels to give back. And it worked! We successfully raised $80,000 toward unrestricted support for the center. We followed that effort with the virtual event I mentioned earlier. We hosted the event in June and featured the actress, musician and entertainer Charly Lowry ’06, who gave a live performance of “Brown Skin,” a song she wrote as a student at Carolina. We also heard from Native student leaders.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Just that I’m grateful to be involved and I yearn to be back in person for future meetings and events.