RAMS CLUB MEMBERS MUNROE AND BECKY COBEY HAVE LIVED AROUND THE WORLD, BUT KNEW WHERE THEY EVENTUALLY WANTED TO CALL HOME
By: Speed Hallman
Home was originally College Park, Md., for Munroe Cobey. Becky Cobey hailed from Lenoir. They met at Carolina, and after graduating they made their homes, first singly and then together, in Lake Tahoe, Washington, New York and London. Now they are home for good in Chapel Hill.
"Munroe and I always thought it would be a great place to live,” Becky said. “Prior to Munroe’s retirement we thought about Charleston, S.C. and Southern Pines. Because both of our daughters attended UNC, we knew it would be a place they would want to return to, so Chapel Hill was it.” They returned in 2006.
As a North Carolina native, Becky followed a traditional path to Carolina as an undergraduate. “When I was in high school, no one did college tours, we just applied based on colleges we had heard of, or geography,” she said. “My father graduated from UNC and UNC Law and we watched Carolina basketball on TV, so I decided on Carolina. I never saw the school until after I was accepted.”
“I’m not Carolina born and bred,” Munroe joked. “My wife is the only truly born and bred member of the family.” His path to Carolina was much less traditional. It started in Cole Field House, home of the Maryland Terrapins.
When Munroe was in high school he asked his father, University of Maryland athletic director William W. Cobey, to introduce him to Dean Smith.
“North Carolina played in the East Regionals (1969, in College Park) and Dad was still the AD at Maryland, so I went to all those games,” he said. Munroe was working on a school project about leadership, and he wanted to interview Coach Smith. His dad said they could ask. “We went down to Cole Field House and Dean was walking out on the floor with the team, and my father introduced me to him. I told him what I was doing, and Dean took me back in the locker room and let Bill Guthridge take the team out to practice. You wouldn’t have that happen anymore. That made me a big Carolina basketball fan.”
The Cobey family formed another connection to UNC around the same time, when Munroe’s brother Bill went to work as an academic counselor for Carolina football. He later served as assistant athletic director under Homer Rice, and was AD from 1975 to 1979.
Munroe and Becky met at Carolina Coffee Shop, early in Becky’s freshman year. They dated as undergrads, and Munroe graduated in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in Speech. He spent a year and a half in Lake Tahoe, skiing all day and working as a busboy and waiting on tables at night. Working at Harrah’s Casino, he saw Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. perform, by his estimation, 30 to 40 times each. “You can’t do that forever,” he said, and he returned to North Carolina to earn an MBA at Wake Forest.
Becky received her bachelor’s degree in American History in 1975 and joined United States Congressman Jim Broyhill’s staff on Capitol Hill. She had worked in his office the previous summer and witnessed history being made during the Watergate hearings. Becky later worked for an antipoverty group in Washington and earned a paralegal degree from George Washington University.
They married in 1977 and Munroe pursued a career in finance, first with Bankers Trust in New York and London for 18 years, and then with Tudor Investment Corp., a hedge fund based in Greenwich, Conn.
While living in New York, Connecticut and London and raising a family, the Cobeys didn’t get back to campus often but they kept up with the Tar Heels as much as possible. Getting UNC news during the London years—1992 through 1999—was a challenge. “That was tough and there wasn’t a whole lot of great internet back then,” Munroe said. “We weren’t around when they won the national championship in ’93 for basketball. You kind of got the news the next day, but we kept up. I’ve always kept up.”
“Once we moved back from London we did a couple of trips back to Chapel Hill to see some games—mainly football—but we were also introducing our daughters, who really hadn’t been exposed to Chapel Hill, to Carolina.”
The exposure paid off, and now both daughters are Carolina graduates. Mary graduated in 2005 and lives in Oregon, and Elizabeth graduated in 2007 and lives in New York City. The Cobeys have one grandchild, and two more grandchildren are on the way.
Now that Munroe and Becky have made their home in Chapel Hill, they’re enjoying the benefits of living next to a university. “We knew that a college town has lots of things to offer, especially if you love all the sports, but we’ve also gotten involved in Carolina Performing Arts and PlayMakers,” he said. “We enjoy so many aspects of Chapel Hill. There is always something going on. It feels like there’s a minimum of four or five nights a week where there’s some activity that we go to, whether its performing arts, PlayMakers, a speaker that’s being brought to campus or a sports activity. That’s pretty much every week while school’s in session. There are lots of things to be involved with and we really enjoy having the opportunities that a college town has to offer.”
They’re also giving back to their alma mater through extensive volunteer and philanthropic involvement. Munroe chaired the Arts and Sciences Foundation board and serves on the Educational Foundation and Lineberger Cancer Center boards. Becky has served on the board of the North Carolina Botanical Garden Foundation and the Carolina Women’s Leadership Council. She launched the campaign for the Delta Delta Delta endowed Professorship, and serves on the boards of visitors for the UNC Children’s Hospital and UNC Lineberger. She recently joined the Women’s Campaign Cabinet to work on the Campaign for Carolina.
They attend a wide range of Tar Heel athletic events and support Rams Club initiatives including football and baseball facilities, operating endowments in women’s soccer and golf, and scholarships. They endowed two scholarships and they look forward to attending the annual Scholarship Dinner and meeting scholarship recipients. “We’ve had some great student-athletes assigned to us,” Munroe said, citing tailback Gio Bernard and pitcher Matt Harvey as examples. “Meeting them at the Scholarship Dinner and getting to know them there is always one of the highlights of the year.”
“I love meeting our scholarship players and their teammates,” Becky said. “It amazes me that they are such dedicated students and seem like normal 18 to 21 year-olds who just happen to be gifted athletes. I know facilities are important to compete for the top athletes, but I’m much more interested in supporting scholarships.”
What has changed and what remains the same since they were undergrads? “Chapel Hill is now almost unrecognizable from what it was in 1975,” Becky said. “The old campus looks the same, but not much else.” She misses the Porthole but takes comfort that Sutton’s and the Coffee Shop remain.
“We live relatively close to the campus, and I enjoy walking through campus. It always brings back some great memories,” Munroe said. “I was in the ATO house when I was an undergrad, and basically that walk from the ATO House to the Pit is unchanged: Through the sundial and up through campus past South Building, and through the quad to Wilson Library.”
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