State News

New UNC chancellor: 'A lot of homework still ahead of me'

Posted July 1, 2008 11:15 a.m. EDT
Updated July 1, 2008 8:03 p.m. EDT

— The new chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill started his first day on the job with a 7:30 a.m. breakfast with student leaders.

Holden Thorp said he was inspired that students in Chapel Hill would turn out so early in the morning to welcome him to work. He's admits, too, that he's still something of a student himself.

Thorp said he's concentrating on learning about the entire university and has "a lot of homework still ahead of me."

UNC Student Body President J.J. Raynor presented Thorp with a Tar Heel-blue backpack, map of campus and large coffee mug. The Graduate Student Government Association gave him large bottles of Tums and Aleve.

At age 43, Thorp is among the youngest university leaders in the country. The former chemistry professor graduated from the university two decades ago and has spent much of his career there, most recently as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

He now takes over the state university's flagship campus, which has with more than 28,000 students and 3,200 faculty members.

"What I hope people will say is that I listened to the various constituents," Thorp said.

He replaces James Moeser, who stepped down after eight years as chancellor.

On his first day in office, the university snagged a $1 million gift to establish a visiting professorship in the Creative Writing Program.

Sallie Shuping-Russell, managing director of a New York investment firm and a member of UNC's Board of Trustees, committed $666,000 to endow the professorship, qualifying it for $334,000 in state matching funds. The position would help attract top writers to Chapel Hill to teach and give public readings.

"This gift gets my job as chancellor off to a great start, and I'll always feel a special gratitude to Sallie," Thorp said in a statement. "The rigorous program and intimate engagement with faculty in creative writing embody the commitments to originality and undergraduate experience that define Carolina."

In an interview, Thorp also spoke briefly about slain UNC student, and former student body president, Eve Carson.

"I think that enthusiasm that she had for Carolina is going to be around here for a long time," Thorp said.