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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Bernard, William Stanly

by Alfred Garvin Engstrom, 1979

15 Sept. 1867–7 May 1938

W.S. Bernard. Courtesy of the "History of the University of North Carolina"William Stanly Bernard, professor of Greek in The University of North Carolina, was born in Greenville, the son of Dr. William Augustus Bernard, a surgeon captain in the Confederate Army, and Mary Smith, said to have been a direct descendant of Landgrave Thomas Smith of South Carolina. From 1893 to 1895 he was a student in the Episcopal Theological Seminary of Virginia. He next served as commandant and instructor in Trinity School at Chocowinity. He entered the university as a special student in 1897, was a member of the Philanthropic Literary Society, editor of the North Carolina University Magazine (1899–1900), an outstanding debater, and one of the first three docents licensed to coach unprepared students (in Greek and Psychology). In 1900 he was awarded the A.B. degree and in 1904 the A.M. degree. He served as university librarian in 1900–1901, when reclassification of the library holdings was begun according to the Dewey System.

William Stanly Bernard. Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, UNC Libraries.

Bernard taught English briefly (1902–4) in the university (his readings of "Enoch Arden" were later famous); but he had already been appointed instructor in Greek under Eben Alexander in 1901 and had begun a brilliant teaching career in the classics that was to establish him (with the affectionate nickname of "Bully" Bernard) as one of the most memorable teachers in the university. Thomas Wolfe, in Look Homeward, Angel, refers to him as "Buck" Benson and pays eloquent tribute to "the vast sea-surge of Homer" as he heard it first to Professor Bernard's "slowly pacing feet and hexametrical drawl." Over the next thirty-eight years many generations of Carolina students were to experience the magic of "Bully" Bernard. Professor Archibald Henderson referred to him as one of "the eloquent spellbinders" on the faculty.

In 1905, Bernard won an Early English Text Society Prize, and the following year he was promoted to the rank of associate professor of Greek. He studied at The University of Chicago in 1906 and at Columbia University in 1909, 1910, and 1911. In 1909, President Francis P. Venable appointed him chairman of a committee to plan the reorganization of the alumni association, and his committee's recommendations were basic to the association's future development. He was one of four advisers on the debate committee during a period when the literary societies were outstandingly successful in their debating contests.Isseu of North Carolina University Magazine edited by Bernard [1899-900]. Courtesy of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Under President Harry Woodburn Chase, Bernard presided over the historic meeting of 2 Oct. 1920 at the boardinghouse known as "The Coop" that led to the great "Campaign for Higher Education in North Carolina" in 1920–21. During the next decade he spoke in behalf of the university at numerous alumni banquets and dinners throughout the state. In 1920 he was promoted to the rank of professor of Greek, and on 8 July of that year he married Mrs. Adeline Dewey Claypoole Mitchell (1878–1935) of New Bern, by whom he had one child, Mary Stanly.

In the summer of 1924, Bernard introduced what seems to have been the first course in art history in the university; later he added two other courses in the subject. Although he was an Episcopalian, he taught for many years a large Bible class for men in the Chapel Hill Methodist Church. He was a member of the Order of Gimghoul and of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity and was faculty adviser to the Order of the Grail, of which he was an honorary member. In the early twenties he drove a Twombley convertible motor car that was something of a sensation in Chapel Hill.

The evening before his death of a sudden heart attack, Bernard met with the Order of the Grail, which thereafter established a Bernard-Grail scholarship in his memory. He was buried with his wife and his sister, art teacher Mary Augusta Bernard (1864–1933), in the old Chapel Hill Cemetery.


Kemp P. Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, vol. 2 (1912 [photograph]).

Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel, 10 and 20 May 1938, 1 Dec. 1938.

Chapel Hill Weekly, 13 May 1938.

Durham Morning Herald, 9 May 1938.

Durham Sunday Herald-Sun, 8 May 1938.

Greensboro Daily News, 8 May 1938.

Archibald Henderson, The Campus of the First State University (1949).

Raleigh News and Observer, 10 May 1938.

University of North Carolina Catalogue, 1920–21.

Louis R. Wilson, The University of North Carolina, 1900–1930 (1957 [photograph]).

Additional Resources:

Kemp P. Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, vol. 2:

Short Bio in UNC's Department of Classics:

University of North Carolina. The University of North Carolina the One Hundred and Tenth Session, The Catalogue. Chapel Hill (N.C.): University of North Carolina. 1905. (accessed April 10, 2013).

Image Credits:

Battle, Kemp P. (Kemp Plummer). History of the University of North Carolina. Raleigh, N.C.: Printed for the author by Edwards & Broughton Printing Company. 1907. (accessed April 10, 2013).

William Stanly Bernard. Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, UNC Libraries via Thomas Wolfe: an illustrated biography, edited by Ted Mitchell, a Google e-book.

Issue of North Carolina University Magazine edited by Bernard [1899-900]. Courtesy of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Available from (accessed April 10, 2013).