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Thomas W. Ross Sr. ’75 (JD), former president of the UNC System, is this year’s recipient of the University Award, the highest honor given by the UNC System Board of Governors. Chair Lou Bissette of Asheville presented the award, which recognizes illustrious service to higher education in North Carolina, during a banquet held in Chapel Hill.
Born and raised in Greensboro, Ross earned his undergraduate degree at Davidson College. He has devoted nearly all of the past 40 years to public service, becoming president of the UNC System in 2011 and stepping down in January 2016. Prior to that post, he had served as president of Davidson and as executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, had spent 17 years on the bench as a Superior Court judge and had been director of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts. He also had practiced law, served as a congressional chief of staff and had been on the faculty of UNC’s School of Government.
Ross has been a member of the boards of Davidson, the Center for Creative Leadership and the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities. He also served on advisory boards for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the N.C. Humanities Council, and the N.C. State University Institute for Emerging Issues. A former chair of the UNC-Greensboro board of trustees, he has previously served on the boards of visitors for Carolina, UNC-Greensboro and Wake Forest University. In addition, he has served on the boards of the N.C. New Schools Project, the Kenan Institute for the Arts, the Institute of Government Foundation, the UNC law school’s alumni foundation and the Wake Forest Comprehensive Cancer Center. In May 2015, he was one of three recipients of the GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal.
Shortly after leaving the UNC System presidency, Ross was named the first Terry Sanford Distinguished Fellow at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. On July 1, he will become president of the Volcker Alliance, a nonpartisan organization based in New York that works to advance effective execution of public policies and to rebuild public trust in government.