Dr. Christopher Fordham III, the only medical doctor to serve as chancellor at UNC Chapel Hill, died Thursday, school officials said. He was 81.
“He had an uncommon sense of devotion to this place,” UNC President Emeritus William Friday told The News & Observer of Raleigh. “There were no limits on his hours and dedication. He lived the work.”
As chancellor from 1980 to 1988, Fordham oversaw a major revision of the undergraduate curriculum and led the push to significantly boost faculty research funding, which grew from $56 million to $105 million.
Under Fordham's leadership, the state increased the university's budget. He renewed the focus on private fundraising, putting Carolina among the nation's top 20 public institutions for contributions and increasing the endowment from $30 million to $130 million.
He also oversaw construction of several major campus buildings, including the Dean E. Smith Center and Davis Library.
“Chancellor Fordham is rightly regarded as the driving force behind a period of extraordinary success at Carolina. We will never forget his deep love for this place,” current UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement.
Fordham is survived by his wife, Barbara, three daughters, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the University Methodist Church in Chapel Hill. The university plans to ring the bell of South Building, which houses the chancellor's office, six times on Sunday to recognize Fordham's service as the school's sixth chancellor.
The university will also lower the N.C. flag in Polk Place this weekend to half-staff to honor Fordham.