From five former chairs of the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees: Tim Burnett (2001-2003); Roger Perry (2007-2009); Nelson Schwab (2005-2007); Stick Williams (2003-2005); and Bob Winston (2009-2011):
The undersigned represent 40 years of service on the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and 10 years of service as chairs of that Board. We have served under three chancellors and have seen countless jobs change hands over the past 15 years.
In our collective opinion, Holden Thorp is a principled, caring and dedicated individual who has the potential to be a once-in-a-generation type leader. When he was chosen to be chancellor, we all knew his experience had not fully prepared him for the job, but that he would grow into it. We all feel though, that his superior intellect and leadership qualities have already benefited the university in countless ways.
As an example, Carolina has risen to 9th in the nation in research funding at nearly $770 million last year. In addition, Holden has begun a visioning process to maximize the relevance of the university in the 21st century. He has also become an excellent fundraiser as the university received pledges of over $330 million this past fiscal year.
History is full of examples of men and women who faced adversity early in their careers, learned lessons along the way, and became visionary leaders. Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher are but a few.
But under the 24-hour news cycle and social media, it is very difficult for our new leaders to develop. Those in the public arena today find themselves under assault. Every decision is questioned, and there is a standard set that very few, if any, can meet. The net result of this overzealous scrutiny is that we are discouraging those with potential from serving in public roles. We respect the rights that come with a free press but at the same time, there is a responsibility to see and report more than one perspective.
In our opinion, Holden’s resignation this week was a serious setback for the university and the state. Never have we seen more potential for leadership or more dedication to the university. Holden is one of those unique leaders with the vision and know how to move our university toward its full potential.
One can make the case that he was slightly ahead of his time, but if that is true, then we have all failed to help build his potential. The university and the state are the real losers here, and we hope that at some point, Holden will reconsider his decision.