The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies Foundation, Inc. was established on July 9, 1974 as a non-profit corporation. The object of the Foundation, as it is commonly called, is to preserve, maintain, restore, and enhance those literary, historical, and artistic propertieswhich are entrusted to it by the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies of the University of North Carolina.

The Foundation operates as the legal arm of the Societies, holding title to the portrait collection, furnishings, and other items of value. The Foundation uses its financial resources to fund portrait restoration, portrait display, the commission of new portraits, an ongoing archive preservation project, cemetery plot maintenance, and other large capital expenditures.

The Foundation Board of Directors convenes every semester in the Societies’ chambers at a meeting attended by directors, current senators, and alumni. Three current DiPhi senators serve on the board as ex officio members: the Joint Senate President, Dialectic Society President, and Philanthropic Society President. The remaining twelve or so seats are divided among alumni. The Foundation also holds alumni events. All Foundation events are listed on our Events Page.

History and Duties
In a student organization, continuity is a problem perennially. In the case of the Dialectic and the Philanthropic Societies at UNC, this problem was the main impetus for endowing the University with their libraries in the 1880s. The collections had grown to require full-time staffing to maintain them. The Societies retained their collections of portraits, which required attention at much longer intervals. For several decades, only occasional maintenance was required, but at length, the portraits fell into disrepair through neglect. Many were loaned to various areas of the University and attention to them became uneven.

In the 1940s many portraits were restored and, largely because they were prone to punctures, the canvases were glued onto hardboard. At the time this was thought to be an excellent treatment, but by the 1970s several paintings thus repaired had experienced catastrophic failure from paint flaking off the canvas. Several active members and society alumni formed the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies Foundation, Inc., in 1974 to address this problem. Funds were raised for both the immediate and long-term care of the portrait collections, today constituting their main function.

Title to two other properties of the societies were also conveyed in 1974: the archives of the two societies, consisting of approximately 60,000 pages in bound volumes and loose papers; and physical properties, largely including furniture, but also the two cemetery plots in the old Chapel Hill graveyard. The archives are on extended loan to the University Archives, where they are maintained in archival folders in a climate-controlled environment. As papers are accumulated by the societies, they are organized and deposited with the archives.

In the late 1970s, the societies’ furnishings were restored, including the rostrum furniture and the window treatments in both society halls. Lighting in the halls had been sub-standard for decades, which was replaced with new chandeliers and lighting controls. The skylights in both halls were refurbished and new coats of paint applied to the walls. A Karastan carpet, chairs and a conference table were installed in the Philanthropic Society Hall for use by committees, with a reference library and shelves customized for the societies’ requirements.

The Foundation’s mandate includes language to enhance those literary, historical and artistic properties ….etc. of the societies. Beginning in 1976 the Foundation commissioned oil portraits and bronze busts of several members, with future additions as deemed desirable. Other current projects include compilation of a new alumni register for the first two hundred years, restoration of the two cemetery plots, and the microfilming of the archives to make them more accessible for research. Learn more about our portraits here. Foundation records are kept in the University Archives and can be accessed here.


Please visit the Foundation’s website at If you wish to contact the Foundation, please notify current Foundation President John O’Connor ( Keep in touch with the Foundation through Facebook as well.