New chancellor at UNC expected to be selected on Friday

Apr. 10, 2013 @ 09:02 PM

The North Carolina public university governing board said Wednesday it is ready to name the new leader for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The UNC Board of Governors scheduled a special meeting Friday to elect a chancellor for the country's oldest public university. A 21-member university search committee has been working since October with a higher-education headhunter to find the right replacement for Holden Thorp, who announced last fall he would leave in June.

Thorp decided to resign after two years of scandals involving academic fraud, improper travel spending by fundraisers, special treatment for athletes, and allegations that campus sexual assaults weren't fully reported. He is leaving his undergraduate alma mater after four years as UNC-Chapel Hill's chancellor to become the chief academic officer of Washington University in St. Louis.

Thorp is credited with boosting private donations and pushing UNC-Chapel Hill into the top 10 universities in the country in landing federal research money.

Tom Ross, president of the 17-campus state university system, said last fall the search panel should look for candidates anywhere in the world, and consider those in academia as well as business and other fields. The committee was to narrow down the candidates to three finalists whom Ross would interview, then recommend one to the university system's Board of Governors.

Top qualities UNC leaders wanted in a new chancellor for the prestigious public university were high integrity, powerful people skills, and a track record in persuading donors to contribute to the university generously.

Ross also said the next chancellor should understand that though academics must come first, intercollegiate athletics are central to the college experience and the loyalty it builds with students and neighboring communities, converting them into donors.

Athletics were at the root of several scandals that plagued Thorp's tenure, though he has had to shoulder little of the blame. It was revealed that football players accepted gifts from agents, which led to Thorp's abrupt firing of high-profile coach Butch Davis and NCAA sanctions. Further investigation of the team uncovered players benefited from no-show courses and instructors who didn't teach. The university's top fundraiser and the mother of former Tar Heels basketball star Tyler Hansbrough, also a fundraiser, resigned last fall after it was revealed they may have used donated money to pay for personal travel.

Recruiters searching for a new UNC-Chapel Hill leader were competing with other prestigious universities including Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Penn State, Wisconsin and Berkeley.