UNC-CH chooses Dallas firm to recruit chancellor candidates

Posted October 8, 2012 5:28 a.m. EDT
Updated October 8, 2012 8:14 p.m. EDT

— A 21-member University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill search committee heard on Monday from three firms hoping to conduct the search for the school's next chancellor before voting unanimously to retain Dallas-based R. William Funk & Associates for the job.

Holden Thorp announced three weeks ago that he would step down from his role as chancellor at the end of the 2012-13 school year and return to being a chemistry professor at the school. 

Wade Hargrove, chairman of the Board of Trustees, will lead the national search for a new chancellor. The committee will recommend a slate of three finalists to the full board, which votes on recommending candidates to UNC President Tom Ross. He will then recommend a candidate to the UNC Board of Governors, which will elect the new chancellor.

"There will likely be nothing you will do that is more important to the University of North Carolina than the work of this search committee," Ross told committee members Monday.

Funk & Associates, the same firm that helped UNC identify both Thorp and Ross for their current positions, will conduct public forums in which students, faculty members and others will help identify key characteristics in the next chancellor, Hargrove said. The firm will then work with the committee to draft a job description, advertise the position and winnow the field of applicants.

Bill Funk was the first to present his case to the committee, emphasizing his connections and his firm's experience. 

"I suspect we will have a very strong and robust pool of candidates," he told the committee, despite issues raised during Thorp's tenure related to academic and athletic misbehavior.

"I think you have a lot of residual goodwill," he said. 

"People are going to ask tough questions about what is going on at Carolina today," allowed Martin Baker. His Baker and Associates also bid to run the search. 

Martin Baker's father, Jerry Baker, is a member of the Board of Trustees at Wake Forest University and would have serve as a consultant, if the firm was chosen. Baker himself lives in Winston-Salem. "We certainly understand the UNC System," he said.

The third pitch came from Shelly Weiss Storbeck, of Storbeck / Pimental and Associates, who appeared via Skype. Her firm, with offices in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, is the only female minority-owned firm doing this type of search work, she noted.

Her colleague, Anne Coyle, told the committee that Thorp's accomplishment and the loyal, local alumni in the Triangle would make it easy to recruit a candidate to UNC.

Ross told the committee to look for someone to fill Thorp's big shoes. "We've been blessed with a chancellor who has unwavering integrity, and I urge you to make that your highest priority."

Committee members need to rely on their own instincts and expertise in addition to the search firm, he said, noting the next chancellor will need "a vast array of experiences and expertise" because he or she must respond to various constituencies, from students and faculty to alumni and lawmakers.

Hargrove and Ross stressed the need for confidentiality in the search process so qualified candidates aren't scared off. Baker and Funk reiterated that point in their presentations as well. Publicizing candidates' names could damage the careers of those not ultimately chosen for the UNC-CH job, they said.

"A search that is not confidential will not attract the best people,” Ross said.

Thorp, 48, has been chancellor for four years, the last two of which have been marred by athletic, academic and administrative scandals. He has said that he wants to spend his final months on the job putting policies and procedures in place so that similar problems don't recur.