Chapel Hill, N.C. — Despite NCAA penalties against the Tar Heel football program, an internal review of possible academic misconduct and this week's departure of two top fundraisers, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill officials say they will weather the storm and continue to attract donors.
Auditors are reviewing the records of former Vice Chancellor for Advancement Matt Kupec, who resigned Monday after working for more than 20 years as a UNC fundraiser.
Chancellor Holden Thorp said some of Kupec's trips appeared "personally driven" and noted Tami Hansbrough, the mother of former UNC All-America basketball player Tyler Hansbrough, accompanied him on many of the trips.
Tami Hansbrough stepped down Wednesday from her job as major gifts officer at UNC.
University officials said the pair, who sources have said are dating, traveled together 28 times between 2010 and this year. Destinations included New York, Dallas, Atlanta, San Diego and college towns like Charlottesville, Va., Louisville, Ky., and Morgantown, W.Va.
Auditors are looking at whether fundraising trips corresponded to Notre Dame and Mississippi State basketball games when Tami Hansbrough's son Ben Hansbrough played for those schools.
The UNC-CH Foundation paid for the trips, and no taxpayer money was used, Thorp said.
UNC Board of Governors member Paul Fulton said Thursday that losing Kupec will hurt because he raised billions of dollars for UNC-Chapel Hill. Still, he said he doubts the latest scandal will hurt the campus over the long term.
"Our donors are fundamentally extremely loyal to the university, although they were to Matt too," Fulton said. "They understand that, and Matt understands that the mistakes were egregious."
Although UNC is a public university, private donations are critical. UNC-Chapel Hill raised more than $287 million in private gifts during the fiscal year that ended in June, which is its second-best fundraising year ever.
The private support compares with about $450 million in state funding for the university during the most recent fiscal year.
Thorp said donations are on an even better pace so far this year, and he's trying to focus on the school's successes when dealing with concerned donors, such as a 24 percent increase in student applications and the campus' Top 10 status in research grants.
"Fundraising crosses my mind no matter what's going on," Thorp said. "What you're talking about with donors is their love of the University of North Carolina, their love of the institution."
Board of Governors member Fred Eshelman, who has pledged more than $35 million to UNC-Chapel Hill – the School of Pharmacy is named for him – said his financial support isn't done blindly.
"Personally, it has absolutely no effect on my wish to continue to support education. That opinion is not necessarily shared by others," Eshelman said. "That does not mean I'm trivializing some of the issues that have come up to date – far from it."
Tami Hansbrough was initially hired in late 2008 by the Dental Foundation of North Carolina, which is affiliated with UNC's School of Dentistry.
Foundation officials said Thursday that she raised nearly $5 million during her two-plus years with the organization. They declined to release information from a 2009 audit of foundation operations, saying the report dealt mainly with spending by a former foundation director.
Tami Hansbrough documented the business she conducted for two trips included in the audit and repaid the foundation $174 for personal expenses charged to the group, officials said.
She shifted into the major gifts officer position in UNC's Office of Student Affairs in February 2011. Thorp said Kupec helped create the job for her after an attempt to hire her as his subordinate was thwarted.