UNC donors not scared off by questions surrounding ex-fundraiser

Posted September 13, 2012

— 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.

UNC-Chapel Hill seal on sidewalk UNC officials see little fallout from fundraising scandal

"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.


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  • ashtonaashley Sep 14, 2012

    WRAL = FOX News (and that is no compliment)

  • NCSU84 Sep 14, 2012

    Sounds like all is fine and dandy at UNC per this article.

  • ccsmith1902 Sep 14, 2012

    If Thorp cares about UNC, she should resign.

  • rayraynral Sep 14, 2012

    WRAfail, once again carrying water for the CHeats. There is very little in the story that supports the headline. Here's an idea: if you really care about the school, why don't you do some serious investigative reporting and clear up the underlying corruption so folks can be confident that their investment is a sound one - instead of being a complicit mouthpiece for the UNC-CHeat PR machine?

  • one Sep 14, 2012

    Let me get this straight.
    The only comment contemperaneous to the latest scandal is from the man that the pharmacy school is named after. Its easy to understand that his support (public ally) would not waiver.
    His quote:
    "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."


    So is your headline a little biased?

  • BernsteinIII Sep 14, 2012

    "UNC donors not scared off by questions surrounding ex-fundraiser"

    That's because they are dirty too.

  • GradStudent Sep 13, 2012

    Really, WRAL? The one actual donor interviewed is Eshelman! Of course he isn't going to stop giving! Why not ask people who can only afford to give smaller amounts?

    For that reason, why post this article anyway? It's all speculation that the donations will not fall off, as the extent of Kupec and Hansborough's potential crimes are still coming to light! You would expect donations to drop off in the coming months/years, not a few days after the news comes out and people are still processing.

    WRAL: Stop being the PR mouthpiece for UNC. Start being journalists.

  • SaveEnergyMan Sep 13, 2012

    "Follow the money" is always the best advice when looking for corruption. This mess will continue until you hit them where it hurts - in the pocketbook.

  • superman Sep 13, 2012

    I dont agree with him. Intelligent people do not give their money when they see that it was spent by an employee and his girlfriend on personal expenses. Is he that stupid or does he think wealthy people are stupid? Either way he and Thorp are in the same boat heading nowhere.

  • Objective Scientist Sep 13, 2012

    Although I have earned 3 degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and have what most would consider a very good job and a good income... I do not have the financial ability to donate truly significant sums of money to the University... BUT - IF I DID - I would give CLEAR and EMPHATIC notice that the university would receive NO MORE of my money until I was clearly and unequivocally convinced that the University had been "cleaned up" - the athletic "MESS" and other!