The nickname, the 49ers, was chosen in recognition of the importance of the year 1949 in the history of the university. UNC Charlotte, which began as an off-campus center of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, would have died in 1949 had Bonnie Cone and her supporters not convinced the NC Legislature that Charlotte needed a permanent college. Charlotte College was established that year. It is fortuitous that the university campus is also located on NC Highway 49 and that Charlotte has a rich gold mining history—the term 49ers symbolizing gold mining even though the Charlotte area gold rush preceded the one in California by a number of years.
A bronze statue of the 49er Gold Miner sits in front of the Reese Administration Building on campus. The statue recalls the region’s history as a gold mining center and symbolizes the pioneering spirit and determination that has led to UNC Charlotte’s dramatic growth.