University City

Mary Hopper steps down; University City Partners seeks new director

Mary Hopper, longtime executive director of University City Partners, has resigned from her position as head of the organization.

UCP is a business-oriented nonprofit that has played an active role in University City’s rapid development over the past decade.

The irrepressible Hopper has been the organization’s leader since it was founded in 2003, and her buoyant presence was the public face of UCP.

Hopper’s unexpected departure caught the community off guard.

“I think it is fair to say that everyone was surprised to see Mary leave, including the board and me,” said Janelle Goodrich, who is now serving as the public contact for the organization.

Former Charlotte city manager Kurt Walton has stepped in as interim executive director while the organization seeks Hopper’s permanent replacement. An announcement on the search will likely come in the next several weeks, Goodrich said.

In an official statement, the University City Partners board said members were “grateful for Mary’s service and contributions; her impact on the University area will continue to benefit our residents and help attract business.”

Hopper holds a doctorate in Romance languages and speaks fluent Spanish. Before moving to her key leadership role at University City Partners, she worked with the Charlotte Chamber and directed her own communications firm.

UCP has about 20 member organizations, with strong representation from UNC Charlotte, government agencies and business interests, including banks and real estate.

Althought Hopper was entirely at home in the halls of power, she also established a reputation as a “good sport” who was not afraid to get her hands dirty and spend time in the trenches. And she had a strong interest in the environment.

Just one example: Hopper scrambling over rocks and bushes to inspect first-hand the proposed route of the Toby Creek Greenway, in spite of her tasteful business attire, which earned her the lasting respect and affection of residents in the Newell area.

Individuals and organizations that want to contact University City Partners should contact Goodrich at 704-688-2481 or