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Today's date:

Thomas Ross
selected as next UNC
system president

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Thomas W. Ross, citing his love for the state of North Carolina and his deep belief in the transforming power of higher education, said he was both honored and humbled to serve as the next leader of the UNC system.

Ross, 60, brings a rich array of service and experience to the position, having served for the past three years as president of Davidson College and previously as a North Carolina Superior Court judge and executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, a Winston-Salem-based philanthropic organization.

He will take office Jan. 1, succeeding Erskine Bowles, who announced in February that he would retire at the end of the year after five years of service.

The UNC Board of Governors voted unanimously on Aug. 26 to elect Ross as UNC president during a specially called meeting.

“Our nationwide search attracted talent from many different professional backgrounds and from every part of the country, but in the end, that long road led us back to North Carolina, to one of our own,” said board Chair Hannah D. Gage following the announcement of Ross’ selection.

“In a time of great challenge and constant change, Tom Ross’ thoughtful leadership, his proven integrity, his deep understanding of North Carolina and his lifelong commitment to improving the lives of people in every corner of our state make him the perfect choice to lead the University in the years ahead.”

Ross said he was humbled to be selected for the job previously held by William Friday, C.D. Spangler, Molly Broad and Erskine Bowles. “To be asked to follow in their footsteps is daunting, and frankly a little scary,” he said.

Ross praised Bowles for his outstanding leadership.

“During some of the most difficult economic times our state and nation have ever faced, we all owe him a great deal of gratitude for his outstanding service,” Ross said. “Thank you, Erskine.”

A native of Greensboro, Ross earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Davidson in 1972. Three years later, he graduated with honors from Carolina’s School of Law. After a short stint as an assistant professor at the School of Government, Ross joined the Greensboro law firm of Smith Patterson Follin Curtis James & Harkavy.

In 1982, he became chief of staff in the office of former U.S. Rep. Robin Britt. The following year, at age 33, Ross was appointed by Gov. Jim Hunt to fill a vacancy on the North Carolina Superior Court, a position he held for the next 17 years.

In 1999, Ross was appointed director of the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts. Two years later, he became executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and in 2007 he was named president at Davidson, consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.

Under Ross’ leadership, Davidson implemented The Davidson Trust, becoming the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages so students could graduate debt-free. Also during Ross’ tenure, Davidson established a program to provide scholarships for international students.

Ross said the decision to leave a place he loved so dearly had been an emotional struggle, but he did so “feeling a calling to this university.”

“We must not forget that it is also true that our state and nation, though being tested in new ways, remain strong and free, in large part, because past generations have believed in and invested in the education of our citizenry,” he said.

Ross said he wanted to do everything he could for the more than 225,000 students enrolled in the UNC system’s 17 campuses.

“Nothing is more important to North Carolina’s future and we have no greater responsibility than to develop the curiosity, the creativity, the innovative spirit, the maturity and the intellectual capacity of these young people,” he said.

“I am far from perfect and I am no miracle worker, but I am committed to the task ahead,” he said, “and I commit to you that I will work as hard and as smartly as I am able to accomplish what is best for the University of North Carolina and the people of North Carolina.”

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Sept. 15, 2010

Aug. 25, 2010 Gazette as PDF

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Sept. 15 issue as a pdf


* *UNC research funding totals $803 million

* *Farmer’s work is driven by a quest for excellence and fairness

* *School of Education celebrates 125 years of service

* *Thomas Ross selected as next UNC system president

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2009 - 2010

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