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Carolyn Suitt headshot
Carolyn Suitt, CGIBD Histology Core Lab Manager

Carolyn Suitt, lab manager for the Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease (CGIBD) Histology Core, passed away Thursday February 22, 2024. Born December 2, 1964, in Franklin County, NC Carolyn moved to Chapel Hill and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating with a B.S. in Chemistry in 1997 while juggling working and raising a family alongside her education.


In 1996, she began working as technician in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Farel in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology. Here, she gained experience in microsurgery and data analysis while supporting research on nerve regeneration. Like many, Dr. Farel remembers Carolyn for her work ethic and kindness. “I worked with Carolyn for many years, and she contributed in important ways to the lab’s research efforts. She was a lovely person, diligent worker, and thoughtful of others.” In 2005, Carolyn joined what is now the Histology Research Core, then in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology, under the supervision of Kirk McNaughton. The foundational experiences she learned here in tissue processing, sectioning, embedding, and staining, laid the foundation for a career that would last the rest of her life.


Carolyn Suitt headshot

Her growing expertise in histology led her to join the CGIBD Histology Core as a research specialist in July of 2008. Her responsibilities grew to manage the core’s day-to-day operations providing histology services for members of the CGIBD, other researchers on campus, and in industry. She took immense pride in her work. Carolyn’s supervisor and Director of the CGIBD Histology Core, Dr. Temitope Keku, comments “A consistent theme I heard from researchers who used the histology core was the quality of Carolyn’s work. She recognized the efforts that went into planning and conducting experiments, so she always took great care when processing, embedding, sectioning, and staining their samples. One customer recently wrote a sentiment often felt, ‘Thank you, Carolyn, these H&E slides are stunning.’”


Lab manager for the Keku lab, Nikki McCoy, previously worked alongside Carolyn in the CGIBD Histology Core and remained a close colleague and friend. She remembers Carolyn as a joy to know and work with personally and professionally. “She brought a positive energy with her wherever she went, and it was infectious—anyone who has had the pleasure of being around Carolyn and witnessing one of her smiles would agree…she always made time for a chat, an impromptu visit, or to provide advice on experiments and samples. She approached her work with passion and dedication, and always strove to produce the best possible histological specimens for her customers. She took pride in her work and contributed greatly to the research community both within and outside of UNC.” A close friend and colleague, Lucendia English, remembers Carolyn as “a devoted worker and a best friend” who gave 100% towards her family, her work, and anything she set her mind to accomplish.


Carolyn’s histology expertise was second to none—she served not only her own customers but also was frequently relied on for processing and embedding tissue for other histology cores across campus–a direct reflection in the confidence of her peers in her skill and acumen. Director of the Histology Research Core, Ashley Ezzell, states “Carolyn was a trusted colleague and friend of the Histology Research Core since before my employment began in 2011. Her unwavering contribution of processing and embedding to perfection has been a key to our success and to the satisfaction of our customers. On a more personal note, Carolyn was a wonderful friend and perhaps the most warm-hearted and sincere person I have ever encountered. She was a steady and dependable presence. I, along with the HRC staff, feel privileged to have known her and words cannot express how much we miss her beaming face every day.”


Carolyn also was responsible for training work study students who worked within the histology core. The time and patience she invested developing the skill and confidence of these students was apparent to all who interacted with the CGIBD Histology core. The experiences gained working with Carolyn enabled these students to pursue medical school, graduate school, and careers in histology. Carolyn’s efforts in the lab resulted in personal acknowledgments of her contributions in over 40 peer reviewed scientific articles, co-authorship on three manuscripts, and acknowledgments in five doctoral dissertations from UNC Chapel Hill. Her attention to detail, appreciation of the science, and welcoming smile will be missed by all who knew her.


Outside of the laboratory, Carolyn pursued an Associate degree in Biblical Studies, graduating in 2011 from United Christian College, and attended the Southern District Convocation Ministerial Training Program in 2022. She served as a Minister and Elder in her church, St. John United Holy Church. In all aspects of her life, she dove into any work that needed to be done with a smile on her face that would light up the room. She also deeply loved her family. Her coworkers fondly recall the excitement in her voice and light in her eyes when discussing her children and grandchildren, and she made opportunities to visit them as often as she was able. In February 2023, Carolyn was honored by the Community Empowerment Fund as one of six Black women from Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham as “Black Queens in Our Community” at its Second Annual Awards Ceremony. In response to this recognition, Carolyn commented “Every time I get an opportunity to be a blessing to someone who needs me, I want to do that.” Her generosity was a defining character trait in all aspects of her life.


Carolyn is survived by her husband (Cleveland), sons CJ (Jaclyn) and Joshua (Regina), six grandchildren, two brothers, and two sisters. A memorial and service celebrating her life was held February 29, 2024, with many from her Tarheels family in attendance.