History of the Chancellorship

In 1945, as the state of North Carolina looked to its future beyond the World War II era, it also looked ahead at how the state’s system of higher education should work. That year, the state designated three campuses for newly created chancellorships — at UNC and at what were then N.C. State College in Raleigh and Woman’s College in Greensboro. At Chapel Hill, UNC President Frank Porter Graham ’09 turned to Robert B. House ’16, his longtime friend and colleague. House had returned to UNC nearly 20 years earlier, serving first as executive secretary (1926-34) and then as dean of administration. He would serve until 1957 as UNC’s first chancellor and, to date, has been the University’s longest-serving chancellor.

Eleven individuals have served the University as chancellor over 70 years, and their period of combined service encompasses the massive growth and the political and social changes that have redefined Chapel Hill since the world changed and the veterans transformed our campus in the wake of World War II.

Beginning in late 1995, the Carolina Alumni Review published a series of articles about the lives and times of these chancellors, going back to Robert House. Subsequent articles have detailed the death in 1999 of Michael K. Hooker ’69, the interim chancellorship of William O. McCoy ’55, the arrival of James Moeser in 2000, the appointment of Holden Thorp ’86 to lead the University in 2008 and the naming of Carol Folt to become UNC’s chancellor in 2013. The articles below from the most recent five years of the Review are available online to GAA members only, as a benefit of membership in the association; earlier issues are open to anyone. The complete list of UNC chief executive officers also is available online.



Robert B. House
The Birth of the Chancellorship

William B. Aycock
Grit and Freedom

Paul Sharp
A Brief and Ambiguous Role

J. Carlyle Sitterson
Chancellor of Change

N. Ferebee Taylor
The Reunion Chancellor

Christopher Fordham
Beyond the Campus

Paul Hardin

The Influence of Tradition
Farewell to a Fighter

Michael Hooker

The Return of Michael Hooker
Michael Hooker: Chancellor, Philosopher, Son of the University

James Moeser

Maestro Moeser
A Quick Study
The Moeser Years: A Timeline
Holden Thorp ’86

Holden Thorp ’86 Named 10th Chancellor
Earning His Stripes
The Scientific Entrepreneur
A Conversation With the Chancellor-Elect
Carol Folt
Carol Folt
2013 – present
Dartmouth Leader Chosen to Be Chancellor
April 2013 news report
Carol Folt, the 11th Chancellor
“I know how much public education can change lives”
From the May/June 2013 Carolina Alumni Review

Issues of the Carolina Alumni Review from the most recent five years are available online to GAA members only, as a benefit of membership in the association; earlier issues are open to anyone.

*William O. McCoy 1999-2000 (acting and interim)
McCoy Returns to Lead UNC

Photos of House, Aycock, Sharp, Sitterson and Taylor courtesy of the N.C. Collection / UNC Library; Fordham photo by Bill Bamberger ’79; Hardin photo by Alex Treml; Hooker photo by Chip Henderson; Moeser photo by Dan Sears ’74.