Chemistry Chair Thorp Chosen as Dean of Arts and Sciences

The University looked inside its faculty for the next dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Holden Thorp ’86, a 14-year member of the chemistry department and currently its chair, will assume the deanship July 1, pending approval by the trustees.

A highly regarded classroom teacher, Thorp, 42, already has spent four years in a significant administrative job as director of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, where he presided over a turnaround in the financially ailing planetarium, sparked a big interest in children’s science camps and boosted the center’s fundraising.

The college comprises the vast majority of the undergraduate academic units on the campus, including 54 academic departments and 1,500 faculty and staff. Among the dean’s responsibilities are decisions on faculty hiring, retention and advancement; and fundraising.

Thorp, Kenan professor of chemistry who graduated from UNC with highest honors and earned his doctorate in chemistry at California Institute of Technology in 1989, said he had some catching up to do in the humanities.

“I’m looking forward to learning about what inspires creativity in all these different disciplines,” Thorp told The Daily Tar Heel. “I know about how scientists come up with original things to do, but I have no idea about how historians and Shakespeare scholars do that.”

Thorp, a Fayetteville native, has won more than a dozen teaching- and research-related honors: the Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the Philip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement, the David and Lucile Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering, the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship and the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.

He was named in 2002 an honorary member of the Order of the Golden Fleece, the campus’ oldest honorary society. He is a recipient of the General Alumni Association’s Distinguished Young Alumnus Award. He delivered the December Commencement address last year.

Thorp holds 18 U.S. patents and has published more than 130 academic papers. He also is an amateur musician who plays jazz bass and keyboard and has technical stage experience from having worked with his parents in community theater.

He serves or has served on the Morehead Scholarship central selection committee, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, and the Faculty Working Group for the Performing Arts. He is leading an effort to create a minor in scientific entrepreneurship as part of the Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative, a campuswide effort designed to help UNC students, faculty and staff learn to create new ventures.

As director of the Morehead Center, he established momentum for its first major renovation since its construction in 1947.

Madeline Levine has been interim dean since Bernadette Gray-Little left the position to become provost in July.

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