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Hiawatha Demby speaking at a podium
Hiawatha Demby introduces the keynote speaker at the 2017 CTC Retreat

After more than 30 years of state service, Hiawatha Demby, Applications Analyst with ITS Communication Technologies, will retire at the end of May.

During his time at UNC-Chapel Hill, Demby worked for several departments, saw campus technology support offices evolve into more developed and centralized units, and earned his doctorate.

“My movement through different positions has been as opportunities presented themselves, but always towards the more technical,” he said. The transitions blur in my memory, but I’m quite happy with where I finally landed.”

Demby, who first came to the University as an undergraduate student, worked for the former Radio, Television and Motion Pictures (RTVMP) department in the early 1980s before starting work with Academic Technology and Networks — a campus division that would later help shape the basis for ITS.

Most of adult life at Carolina

Hiawatha Demby in front of the white board at the 2016 BarCamp
At the 2016 BarCamp, Hiawatha Demby helps attendees determine the session topics for the unconference

“After the RTVMP department, I was with ATN, OIS, then Allied Health Sciences, AIS and then ITS. Since I came to UNC as an undergraduate, I have been at UNC pretty much my entire adult life,” he said.

Demby has spent his decades with ITS maintaining an effective production IP Services operation — the planning of, assignment to, and use of IP addresses for all users and devices on the campus network.

Smart, humble, helpful

“Hiawatha is part of ‘the’ original networking guard,” said Ryan Turner, Senior Manager of Networking for ITS Communications Technologies. “While I’m happy for his retirement, I’m sad to see another person who was hand-picked by retired Assistant Vice Chancellor, Jim Gogan, leave the group.”

Demby “has always been calm, cordial and willing to help others,” Turner said. “He is always eager to step up and take on more responsibilities. He is incredibly smart, but always humble. He has the best traits you would want in all employees and will be greatly missed.”

Earning doctorate boosted creativity

However, it is more than mere longevity or dedication that has distinguished Demby’s career —creativity has played a role throughout his time at the University. After inventing several electronic gadgets, Demby took five years off to earn his doctorate in biomedical engineering at the University. When he returned, he brought that same inventive spirit back to work.

Hiawatha Demby talks to co-worker Will Whitaker at Will's desk
Hiawatha Demby with co-worker Will Whitaker

“One of my greatest challenges was developing systems to coordinate and manage our complex production DNS and DHCP systems with open source and home-grown solutions,” Demby said. “I wrote or converted the DNS system management and administration software by hand that lasted for 15 years.”

Demby finds happiness in the fact that those creative solutions allowed for a transition to a modern DDI system while causing very little disruption to the campus community.

“What always struck me with Hiawatha was his strong push for service — both for clients and for the organization,” said Gogan, who retired in 2019 as head of ITS Communications Technologies.

“On the surface, DNS changes can seem simple; many times, they’re not,” Gogan said. “But he was able to communicate this at just the right level with a wide ranging technical — and sometimes not so technical — population.”

Service beyond ITS

Caring about connecting with the campus community goes well beyond just his work.

Hiawatha Demby leads a discussion at the 2017 BarCamp
Hiawatha Demby leads a discussion at the 2017 BarCamp

Having served on the CTC Advisory Board from 2016 to 2019, Demby helped organize, promote and facilitate CTC signature events — the CTC Retreat and BarCamp. He contributed to tasks big and small — leading group discussions, checking in Retreat attendees and huddling at the whiteboard with fellow members to quickly formulate the day’s schedule at BarCamp.

As a former Chair of the ITS Employee Council, Demby credits his involvement with the IT community as giving him some of his favorite memories.

“Participating in and chairing the ITS Employee Council, the initiatives we addressed and events we sponsored like the ITS annual golf tournament — events like that probably hold many of my fondest memories,” Demby said.

3D and virtual reality

Retirement will not find him golfing, however. Demby plans to further explore his creative side with his ongoing interest in 3D printing and his augmented and virtual reality projects.

Said Demby: “My philosophy is, I’m at the end of who I was and the beginning of who I will become.”

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