Education

Sources: Davidson president to lead UNC system

Posted August 25, 2010 12:33 p.m. EDT
Updated August 25, 2010 10:53 p.m. EDT

— Davidson College President Thomas Ross will be named Thursday as the next president of the University of North Carolina system, sources tell WRAL News.

The UNC Board of Governors has scheduled a special meeting Thursday morning to name a new president.

President Erskine Bowles announced in February that he would retire at the end of 2010, after five years of being in charge of the 17-campus UNC system.

Ross has led Davidson for three years, and he previously served as a Superior Court judge, director of the state Administrative Office of the Courts and executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

"Tom is really a terrific guy. He's smart, completely committed to North Carolina and completely committed to UNC," said Leslie Winner, a former state senator who succeeded Ross as executive director of the Reynolds Foundation.

Winner said Ross' background gives him the experience needed to lead the university system and work with legislators.

"He's been president of an institution of higher education. He also served on the UNC Tomorrow Commission, which familiarized him with the challenges facing the university system, and he was the chairman of the Board of Trustees at (the University of North Carolina at Greensboro), so he understands the university system from a campus perspective," she said.

A Greensboro native, Ross earned a bachelor's degree from Davidson and a law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. He also taught at the UNC School of Government.

He was chairman of the state panel that created a structured sentencing system for criminal offenses in North Carolina, and the system became a model for other states. For his work, the late U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist presented him with an award for judicial excellence.

The move to UNC will present Ross with different challenges than those he's faced at Davidson.

The private liberal arts college located about 20 minutes outside Charlotte has about 1,700 students, while the UNC system's 16 university campuses have a combined enrollment that tops 200,000 and continues to grow.

Ross also will have to deal with the state budget cuts the UNC system has endured over the past two years. The campuses must lay off scores of employees this year to cut a combined $70 million from their operations, and the Board of Governors last month approved hefty tuition increases to help offset the loss of state funds.

The Board of Governors formed three committees in March to handle the search for Bowles' successor, and members have been meeting in recent months to hammer out details like candidate qualifications and a proposed compensation package. The board also hired Dallas-based consulting company R. William Funk & Associates to identify and screen candidates for the post.

One of the committees set the annual salary for the next president at $495,000 to $550,000, but officials said the details could be adjusted during the hiring process.

In addition to the annual salary, the new president will receive a vehicle for business use, membership in the private Carolina Club for business use, a residence with housekeeping and groundskeeping services, health insurance and retirement benefits, officials said.