Meaders’ philosophy: ‘You are the U in UNC’
- Born and raised in Monroe, N.C.
- Competed in the discus, shot put and 35-pound weight throw.
- Ranks second on the UNC all-time list with a discus throw of 186–10 (56.95 meters).
- Captained the 1992 track team at Carolina and became an NCAA and Olympic Trials qualifier while at UNC.
- Spent three years as an assistant coach at Western Carolina University while earning his master's degree in physical education.
- During an 18-year stint at Florida State University, coached throwers (including two-time NCAA champion Garrett Johnson, who in 2005 became the first student-athlete at FSU to become a Rhodes Scholar), and coordinated recruiting operations.
When Harlis Meaders walked onto Carolina’s campus for the first time, he immediately fell in love with its rolling hills and the iconic Bell Tower – and a girl named Mary.
Mary is but a fond memory now, and after a long absence, Meaders returned to campus last July as head coach of men’s and women’s track and field and cross-country.
Once again, the Bell Tower and rolling hills have him under their spell.
“Last summer I came back to Carolina and brought with me 20 years of life experiences combined with what I learned here,” Meaders said.
He shared some of what those years taught him – such as his views on leadership – with the Employee Forum recently.
Status and education may help people attain positions of leadership, Meaders said, but they are not necessarily the things that make great leaders. Leaders come in two forms – and each is essential to the other, he said.
“There are individuals who become leaders because they have enormous dreams and brilliant vision with the capacity to inspire others to help make those dreams into a reality,” Meaders said. “Then there are the people who get pushed into greatness because they have consumed the dreams of others. At Carolina, we are blessed to have both.”
Furthermore, he believes that everyone who works here should find the opportunity – and feel the obligation – to show what they have to give.
"Carolina is and will always be a special place,” he said. “Beyond the buildings and the trees, beyond the Bell Tower and the
Old Well, it will always be the people who work, teach, learn and live here who make it most special.
"I told my team, and I believe it holds true for everyone associated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, that 'You are the U in UNC.' We all have a duty to be the best that we can be in all that we do because, in the end, we are Carolina.”
Meaders also wants his athletes to understand that they represent Carolina in the classroom as well as on the field.
“I have an excellent staff of assistant coaches and they are focused on the complete development of our student-athletes,” he said. “We want to see our kids continue to grow as students, young men and women, and athletes.
“As athletes they want to run faster, jump longer or higher, and throw farther. We ask them to take that competitive attitude into the classroom and other arenas of their lives and challenge each other to be better.
“We ask them, when faced with challenging situations, to have the courage and integrity to do the right thing.”
Commitment to academic success
From 2007 to 2012, his student-athletes at Florida Sate University earned 19 Academic All-America honors.
He was also the co-founder of R.E.A.L. Men (Reliable, Educated, Approachable Leaders), a leadership program at Florida State for male student-athletes.
“I have been blessed to spend my life around talented inspirational young men and women,” Meaders said. “The R.E.A.L Men leadership program provided a safe environment for our male students to share our strengths, weaknesses and fears.
“We worked together to help each other become better teammates, citizens, leaders and fathers. We tried to define or redefine what we believe men should be. It was a wonderful experience and I may have learned more from them than they learned from me.
“UNC has a leadership program in place for our student-athletes and I am amazed at all that we offer. I will continue to work with my team to help foster the growth of our students.”