Tom Ross will step down as President of the University of North Carolina system at the end of 2015, but his reserved judicial temperament has been a stabilizing force for the University system at a time of tremendous change.
Over the past four years, Ross has managed the University system through significant transitions and very difficult times.
At a time when the workplace demands an educated workforce, Ross presided over an increase of more than 20% in the number of degrees the university system awards, despite more than $500 million in budget cuts from the state. He also found efficiencies that led to a 17% reduction in cost per degree.
The University system also has become one of the leading providers of online education. More than 21,000 students are fully online, and almost 40% of all students took at least one online class last year.
The chairman of the UNC Board of Governors called Ross a terrific president. “This board believes Tom Ross has been a wonderful president – fantastic work ethic, perfect integrity, worked well with our board,” said John Fennebresque, the chairman of the board, as he announced Friday that Ross will step down at the end of the year.
Ross’s looming departure adds uncertainty at a time of great change in higher education, raising questions about the direction of public higher education in North Carolina. The selection process by the Board of Governors and the President the board chooses will affect the University’s ability to attract and keep quality faculty, students, researchers and administrators.
The President should be a recognized leader who understands and values North Carolina’s commitment to providing quality higher education at an affordable price. He or she should be someone who commands respect from the many constituencies in higher education, and who embraces innovation in education.
Higher Education Works looks forward to supporting the efforts of the Board of Governors and the new President to keep the promise of providing higher education to North Carolinians.
As Ross said at the announcement of his departure, the University plays a vital role as an economic driver for North Carolina.
“This is the oldest public university in America. It’s among the best – if not the best – public university in America,” he said. “I believe this University is one of our greatest assets.”
Comments on Tom Ross’ Leadership
“I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job during four very difficult years; Tom dealt with budget cuts, political transitions, academic and athletic scandals and a very new and sometimes difficult board. In addition, he delivered what I think is the best strategic plan the university has ever had.” Hannah Gage, Former Chair, UNC Board of Governors
“Tom had a heck of a lot of things to deal with simultaneously… Tom did a good job navigating very difficult waters. It’s a big loss.” Fred Eshelman, former member, UNC Board of Governors
“I want to take this opportunity to thank President Ross for his leadership, dedication and service to the entire University, and especially to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From my very first days as a new chancellor, I have been inspired by President Ross’ belief in and support for the students, faculty and staff in Chapel Hill and throughout the UNC System.” Chancellor Carol Folt, UNC-Chapel Hill
“President Ross has our complete confidence in managing an incredibly complicated system in an area – education – that is changing every day.” John Fennebresque, Chair, UNC Board of Governors
“He’s certainly done an extraordinary job at a critical time in the history of the university, and we are going to miss his leadership.” Brad Wilson, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina; Former Chair, UNC Board of Governors