Professors with Passion: Bill and Marcie Ferris

They say opposites attract, but sometimes shared interests bring two people together. Bill and Marcie Ferris, who have been married for 16 years, have more than just a few things in common.

[youtube][/youtube]This dynamic couple came to UNC-Chapel Hill 11 years ago. Bill is the associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South and the Joel Williamson Eminent Professor of History. He also is an adjunct professor in folklore and a blues enthusiast. Marcie is an associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the department of American studies. They have both written a number of books, including The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture and Give My Poor Heart Ease (Bill) and Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South, Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History and The Edible South: Food and History in an American Region (Marcie). (Watch another video about Bill’s book, Give My Poor Heart Ease.)

But Bill and Marcie don’t just study and write about Southern life —they embody it — especially a little thing we call Southern hospitality. If you’re looking for a solid taste of Southern hospitality right here in Chapel Hill, you need look no farther than their home, just three blocks from UNC’s campus.

On the last day of class, Marcie invites all of her students into her home for food and refreshments. Large platters of homemade deviled eggs, pimiento cheese sandwiches and other traditional Southern favorites create a beautiful spread across her kitchen. These get-togethers are a regular occurrence at the Ferris household.

“We like to entertain,” said Bill. “And we see that as part of our relationship with the University community.”

Although neither is a North Carolina native, both Bill and Marcie agree that Chapel Hill is home.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Marcie said. “We really feel like this is where we belong.”

Professors with Passion is a video series spotlighting outstanding teachers and scholars in the College of Arts and Sciences throughout 2012.  If you know a professor who deserves to be in the spotlight, contact Dee Reid, director of communications, at

[ Text and video by Mary Lide Parker ’10]