Thank You, Holden, for Being My Chancellor

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp

The email announcement from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp stating he intends to step down next June that I received on Monday caught me by surprise, and I’m still sad about it. Tuesday afternoon, I attended a special session of the faculty council, where hundreds of faculty members packed the auditorium to show their support for Chancellor Thorp and ask him to reconsider his decision.

Here is the text of the resolution hundreds of faculty voted unanimously to pass:

“The General Faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, convened in special session September 18, 2012, affirms its support for Chancellor Holden Thorp and respectfully requests that UNC President Thomas Ross decline to accept Chancellor Thorp’s announced resignation.  We believe that, despite the difficulties of the present moment, Holden Thorp remains the best person to lead our university through these challenging times.  With the university’s Faculty Executive Committee, the College of Arts and Sciences Council of Chairs, and other campus groups, we urge that President Ross, the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, and the UNC Board of Governors continue to provide the support the chancellor needs to remain in office.”

After the faculty council meeting, I ran into one faculty member who works very closely with Thorp, and he too looked visibly sad. “I came today just because I wanted to thank Holden for all he has done,” I said. As soon as I got home, I sat down to write this blog just to say publicly, “Thank you, Holden, for being my Chancellor.”

To see a 2-minute video of what was discussed, and Holden’s comments the faculty, check out this video created by the UNC student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel. If you look closely, I’m up in the top left corner with my arms crossed and wearing a coral colored shirt.

I first met Holden when I was a brand new faculty member at UNC. He was serving as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at that time, and on one of my first days of work I had a small lunch meeting with him and a few other new faculty. His humility was as striking as his genius. He seemed to care about the direction of the university as a whole and about the career of every single faculty member.

When he was elected Chancellor the following year, I rejoiced, knowing that same vision and genius would now be leading the entire university. I remember walking past him on campus one day  and saying, “Hi Holden!”, and he kindly replied, “Hi, Margarita.” He remembered my name. Not only had he been my Dean, he was now my Chancellor, and he remembered my name. Thank you, Holden, for calling me by my name, Margarita.

I’ve seen many wonderful things happen at UNC during Holden’s time here. I am particularly encouraged by the university’s commitment to sponsoring entrepreneurship across all disciplines, such as through the Carolina Entrepreneurship Initiative. I greatly appreciate the university’s strengthening committment to support engaged scholarship, such as through the Faculty Engaged Scholars Program.

Of late, however, most attention has gone to problems of academic integrity that are related to the unethical behavior of one faculty member and one administrator (now both gone from UNC). More attention recently went to the mis-use of university funds by two university employees for personal travel. And in both cases, the violations were in some way related to Carolina athletes or the promotion of the Carolina athletics program. I just hope that those serious problems do not overshadow Holden’s legacy and his many contributions to Carolina.

At the faculty council meeting, numerous faculty spoke highly of Holden. One faculty member in English remarked, “We have a Chancellor who is a chemist but who understands humanities!” Another faculty member pointed out that all of us, not just the Chancellor, need to contribute to the good governance of this school.

James Moeser

Then former Chancellor James Moeser took the microphone, and he explicitly directed his comment to the media. He graciously acknowledged all the hard work of the many Carolina faculty members in the room, and said that our faculty assembly–called with less than 24 hours notice–showed how committed UNC faculty really are to the Carolina way.

Former Chancellor Moeser couldn’t be more correct. And no one has taught me more about the Carolina way than Holden Thorp. Thank you, Holden, for being my Chancellor.


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