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Bowles Picked To Be Next UNC President

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Erskine Bowles is expected to become the next president of the University of North Carolina system after a search committee named him its candidate, university officials said Thursday.

The UNC Board of Governors' 13-member search committee unanimously recommended Bowles earlier this week, the board said in a statement. The full 32-member board will hold a special meeting Monday, where his election is all but assured.

The Charlotte investment banker was White House chief of staff under President Clinton and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2002 and 2004.

"He's everything we want, everything we need," Craig Souza, the board's vice chairman, said. "Every time we turned, he just came out on top."

Bowles did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press. Board members and other university officials received the search committee's recommendations in an e-mail Thursday. The committee considered 80 prospective candidates and met with five.

"The president's job takes a unique blend of skill, character and passion. We searched for a president who possesses all three, and no one possesses that blend more than Erskine Bowles," UNC board and search committee chairman Brad Wilson said in a statement.

If approved, Bowles will start on Jan. 1. He'll earn a salary of $425,000, but officials said he intends to donate $125,000 a year to need-based student aid funds. Bowles would replace Molly Broad, who has led the 16-campus system since 1997.

Souza said even though Bowles would not officially start for a few months, he believed Bowles would "be highly visible before then."

"I think he will take over mentally today," Souza said. "The taxpayers will get a real bargain for the next 90 days."

Bowles is a multimillionaire who has long-standing connections to the University of North Carolina. He received his bachelor's degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and a center on alcohol studies is named for his late father, Hargrove "Skipper" Bowles. The elder Bowles was a state cabinet secretary who lost in the 1972 gubernatorial election.

While his Democratic roots also are strong, he had bipartisan support to receive the UNC post.

All state Senate Republicans endorsed Bowles for the position even before Broad announced her departure, saying his business experience would make him suitable to oversee UNC's campuses.

Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, also backed Bowles in the summer even as a search committee retained an Atlanta-based consultant to help track down other potential candidates.

Bowles has little or no academic experience, in contrast to Broad, who spent her career in higher education.

"It's an interesting perspective that he's going to bring," Zach Wynne, the student member on the UNC board, said in an interview. "He's got a wealth of experience. I think it's going to be interesting. I wonder what's in store?"

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