The easy answer is “whomever the 32-person Board of Governors of the university selects.”
Somebody gave me a more cynical answer: “Whoever gets 16 plus one votes.”
The Board will be looking for the new president who has two critical qualifications:
1. A good feel for North Carolina’s traditions and the state’s needs, and,
2. Successful experience at the highest level of university administration.
It has been tough to find the right candidate who meets both these qualifications. Presidents Dick Spangler and Bowles met the first test, but not the second. President Molly Broad met the second test, but not the first.
So, is there anybody out there today who can meet both tests?
Here are a few possibilities:
Henderson native Elson S. Floyd, president of the four-campus Washington State University, is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where he also held important administrative positions.
He has been president of the four-campus University of Missouri and president of Western Michigan University.
J. B. Milliken is president of the University of Nebraska. Previously, he was senior vice president at UNC, where he gained an intimate familiarity with the state’s political elite.
Harold L. Martin, currently North Carolina A&T’s chancellor, served as senior vice president for academic affairs at the UNC from 2006 until 2009.
Fayetteville native Holden Thorpe is still on a long honeymoon as chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill. His youthfulness has been an asset in his current position and could be a real advantage if the UNC board wants someone who could serve, as did William Friday, for more than a few years.
Bernadette Gray-Little, a native of eastern North Carolina and long time faculty member and recent executive vice chancellor and provost at UNC-Chapel Hill, is the brand-new chancellor of the University of Kansas.
Davidson College President Tom Ross spent 16
years as a Superior Court judge based in Greensboro and served as the director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Court, where he worked closely with the legislature and oversaw the rewriting of the state’s sentencing guidelines. In 2001 he became executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, where he worked with multiple constituencies on a host of North Carolina’s problems and opportunities.
Asheville native Leslie Winner succeeded Ross at Z. Smith Reynolds. Previously, she was UNC’s vice president and chief legal officer. Earlier she served in the state senate where she oversaw appropriations for education.
William Roper, dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, vice chancellor for Medical Affairs and CEO of the UNC Health Care System, is a nationally respected expert on health care issues, and a proven manager in the most complicated of university activities.
Debra Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools since 2000, was vice chancellor and dean of the Graduate School at North Carolina State University, and she served as interim chancellor at UNC-Greensboro.
Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan since 2002, is one of Time Magazine’s top 10 university presidents. She was president of the University of Iowa and held top administrative posts at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she earned her doctorate in biochemistry.
Elizabeth Kiss, president of Agnes Scott College, was previously director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. She graduated from Davidson and Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.
Sometimes public university governing boards pick one of their own to lead the institution, usually in recognition of the importance of political judgment and clout. One obvious possibility would be Greensboro lawyer Jim Phillips, a former board chair and deemed by one magazine “the most plugged-in attorney in North Carolina.”
D.G. Martin is the author of “Interstate Eateries,” a guide to family owned homecooking restaurants near North Carolina’s interstate highways www.interstateeateries.com