Bowles to be UNC System President

Erskine Bowles ’67 was unanimously elected today by the UNC System Board of Governors to be the 16-campus system’s next president. Bowles will take office Jan. 1, succeeding the retiring Molly Corbett Broad.

Bowles, 60, is a Greensboro native and an influential Charlotte businessman who was a top aide in President Clinton’s White House and whose father was one of Carolina’s most prominent alumni.

The choice came just less than six months after Broad announced her retirement in April. She has presided over the system for eight years.

“I cannot imagine having another job that would offer such an extraordinary opportunity to positively impact the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of our state for years and years to come,” Bowles told the board. “In the years ahead, we are going to face enormous challenges and opportunities. Today’s knowledge-based global economy relentlessly punishes the undereducated individual, community, state, and nation. North Carolina’s system of higher education must be up to that challenge. Come January 1, I promise you that I will be prepared to accept this public trust, and I thank you for entrusting me with this opportunity to serve this great university.”

Speculation was so strong that Bowles was the favorite that BOG Chair Brad Wilson stated publicly in August that the search was wide open. The UNC General Administration said in a statement that the head of the search firm Baker-Parker and Associates had screened 80 candidates, five of whom had met with the committee, and that the committee was working toward naming finalists when it decided to put forth only Bowles.

“There is no other job in our state quite like the presidency of the University of North Carolina,” BOG Chair Brad Wilson said upon Bowles’ election. “It requires a rare blend of experience, skills, character, and passion. We searched nationwide for a leader who possessed all four, and no one embodied that combination more fully than Erskine Bowles. Without question, UNC’s president must have an intimate understanding of the teaching, research, and outreach that define the University’s three-part mission. But equally important, the president must understand how to leverage resources and motivate supporters to carry out that mission. I’m absolutely convinced Erskine Bowles is up to the job.”

Bowles would be the sixth president to lead the consolidated UNC System – only the third under its present structure. The first of those, William Friday ’48 (LLB) was thrilled with the selection.

“This is a very fortunate day for The University of North Carolina and the state of North Carolina,” Friday said when Bowles’ recommendation by the search committee was announced. “He will be an exceedingly effective leader. I think it marks now a turning point” in the system’s history, he added, calling Bowles “forceful, patient and compassionate.”

“He has had a very strong career. He has molded public policy and national policy. He knows this state like the back of his hand. There is no learning time. He can go to work January first.”

Bowles served in the Clinton administration as director of the Small Business Administration, as deputy White House chief of staff and White House chief of staff. He took his business degree from Carolina to Columbia University, where he earned an MBA. He later went to work for Morgan Stanley in New York and then, with partners, started an investment firm in the 1970s before he was attracted to politics.

Bowles is the son of Hargrove “Skipper” Bowles ’41, a former candidate for governor and one of UNC’s best-known philanthropists. He was credited as the driving force behind the privately built Dean Smith Center, and his name is on the building that houses UNC’s Center for Alcohol Studies. The elder Bowles also was credited with instilling in his children a strong public service ethic.

Erskine Bowles, who lost bids for a U.S. Senate seat in 2002 and 2004, now is with Bowles Hollowell Conner in Charlotte, an investment firm he founded. Earlier this year, he was chosen to assist Clinton as U.N. Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami-Affected Countries in South Asia.

The search committee declined to name its other serious candidates. “In the end, the search committee concluded it would have been unfair to disclose the identities of the other applicants when Erskine Bowles had unanimous support from the committee,” Wilson said in a statement.

Bowles will be paid $425,000 a year. According to the UNC General Administration statement, he intends to donate $125,000 of that amount to need-based student aid funds that will be identified later.

News reports stated Bowles also would be provided a car, a private club membership and considerations for a faculty position upon his retirement in addition to the president’s house adjacent to the UNC campus on Franklin Street.

Bowles has been married since 1971 to Crandall Close Bowles, chair and chief executive officer of Springs Industries, one of the nation’s largest textile companies. They have three adult children: Sam, a 1997 graduate of Carolina and a graduate of the Harvard Business School, who is  employed by Carousel Capital; Annie, a 1998 UNC graduate who also has a degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and who soon will begin a fellowship in infectious diseases at the UNC School of Medicine; and Bill, a graduate of Princeton University now attending the Stanford Business School.

More online…

Share via: