Longtime UNC announcer Woody Durham reveals he's battling progressive disease

Woody Durham with his wife, Jean (Courtesy: UNC Athletic Communications )

In a letter to the community, longtime UNC sports announcer Woody Durham revealed he is battling a progressive disease that affects his ability to communicate.

The letter states Durham was diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder called primary progressive aphasia (PPA) last winter.

Click here to learn more about PPA

The "Voice of the Tar Heels" wrote because of the disease, which hinders his language expression, he will no longer be doing any public speaking.

According to a UNC Athletics spokesperson, the 1963 UNC graduate called more than 1,800 broadcasts on the Tar Heel Sports Network, winning the North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year award 13 times.

"While learning of this diagnosis was a bit of a shock for [my wife] Jean and me, and yes, quite an ironic one at that, it also brought a sense of relief to us in terms of understanding what was happening to me and how best to deal with it," Durham wrote.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame honored Durham in 2015 with the Curt Gowdy Award for electronic media.

Durham said he plans to enjoy company with friends and traveling with his wife, Jean. Durham, who retired in 2011, will continue to attend Carolina functions and sporting events.

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Read Woody Durham's full letter below:

"Last winter, I was diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder, primary progressive aphasia, that affects my language expression. I want to tell you this because I will no longer be doing any public speaking. I can still enjoy the company of friends and traveling with my wife, Jean, but I am not able to address groups as I did in the past. While learning of this diagnosis was a bit of a shock for Jean and me, and yes, quite an ironic one at that, it also brought a sense of relief to us in terms of understanding what was happening to me and how best to deal with it.

Our entire family is grateful for the incredible care we have received from a group of very talented medical professionals, led by Dr. James Kurz and Dr. Daniel Kaufer, of UNC Health Care. They have helped me adapt to this diagnosis and set up a treatment plan that will help me manage my day-to-day activities as I continue to enjoy retirement.

As in the past, I will continue to attend Carolina functions and sporting events as my schedule permits; and be part of civic and other charitable endeavors throughout the state. As part of these events, we want to make people more aware of primary progressive aphasia, and the impact that these neurocognitive disorders can have on individuals, families and friends. Along with raising awareness, we hope to encourage financial support for continued research and treatment in our state, as well as nationally.

I also hope to meet many more of the people that enjoyed our radio broadcasts in the 40 years I was privileged to be the "Voice of the Tar Heels." Those greetings and kind words have meant so much to me in the last five years, and hold a very special place in my heart."


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