A UNC Board of Governors committee is nominating board members Joan MacNeill of Webster and Ann Goodnight of Cary to co-chair the search for a UNC system president to replace Tom Ross, who’s leaving the job next year at the board’s request.
The nominating committee, led by Board of Governors Chairman John Fennebresque of Charlotte, met Thursday to choose who will make up the three committees that have a role in finding the next system president. The full board is scheduled to decide on the nominations next week.
The search committee, the most powerful of the three committees, will submit one or more presidential finalists to the full board. During the four-hour meeting in Fennebresque’s uptown Charlotte office, nominating committee members tried to craft a diverse committee that includes members with deep experience on the Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s 17-campus university system.
That wasn’t the easiest task. The 32-member board is mostly white, male and Republican. Most of its members have served fewer than four years; many have served fewer than two. They’ve been appointed since the Republican majority took control of the state legislature in the 2010 elections.
The two co-chair nominees are among seven women on the board. Goodnight, the wife of SAS billionaire Jim Goodnight, is a community volunteer and businesswoman. MacNeill is a retired entrepreneur and community advocate. Greensboro attorney Therence Pickett, one of the board’s two African-American members, was chosen as the search committee’s vice chairman.
The other proposed search committee members are Frank Grainger of Cary, Doyle Parrish of Raleigh, Craig Souza of Raleigh, G.A. Sywassink of Hilton Head, S.C.; and Raiford Trask of Wilmington.
Chairman Fennebresque, Vice Chairman Louis Bissette of Asheville and Secretary Dr. Joan Perry of Kinston are automatically on the presidential search committee. Search committee members also serve on the screening committee, which winnows applicants, and the leadership statement committee, which develops a presidential job description.
Other screening committee nominees are Roger Aiken, Jim Holmes, Scott Lampe, Champ Mitchell, Anna Spangler Nelson, David Powers and Robert Rippy.
Thursday’s meeting follows a rocky couple of months for the university system. Since the board voted in January to put an early end to Ross’ presidency, despite praising his tenure, critics have accused members of playing politics. Ross, Davidson College’s former president, is a Democrat who was chosen in 2010 before Republicans took control of the legislature.
Several nominating committee members noted the responsibility they feel. “This is the most important thing I will do” on the board, nominating committee member Ann Maxwell said. Fennebresque called the university system presidency the state’s most important non-elected job.
Asked why people should trust the process, he replied: “A lot of people are going to work real hard, and it’s going to be very open.”
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