This article has two broad goals. First, it uses the history of the University of North Carolina to explore the purposes and challenges of a great public university. Issues of access to the empowerment that accompanies extraordinary learning and research, service to the most challenging needs of the commonwealth, assistance in the implementation of democratic norms, and the effective safeguarding of academic freedom and independent governance constitute the central focus. Carolina's story speaks to them all. Second, and less congenially, over the last decade, UNC has done much to abandon the cornerstones of its long-shouldered sense of public obligation. Commitments to economic access, uplift of the marginalized, skeptical exploration of public policy, and the rigors of academic liberty have been pointedly eroded. As the institution plunges, it betrays a set of commitments that has long served as lodestar for state universities across the country. Chapel Hill, increasingly, is not Chapel Hill.