UNC System Official to Serve as Interim President

The UNC System’s top academic officer, Dr. Junius J. Gonzales, has been named to be the system’s interim president beginning Jan. 4, after Thomas W. Ross ’75 (JD) steps down, and serve until Margaret Spellings takes office March 1.

Gonzales joined the UNC System in January 2015 as senior vice president for academic affairs of the 17-campus UNC System. He was elected to the interim position by the Board of Governors on Friday.

In his current role, Gonzales is responsible for its educational and research missions and advises the president and the BOG on academic issues and policies of systemwide importance. He oversees academic planning and budgeting, student affairs, sponsored programs and research, faculty support, licensure and institutional research and analysis, and he works with chancellors and chief academic officers on systemwide academic initiatives.

A psychiatrist by training, Gonzales has an undergraduate degree from Brown University, a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the University of Maryland. He completed his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and did a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health. Over the course of his career, Gonzales has drawn on his clinical and research skills, business expertise and collaborative leadership style to make positive impacts in academia, government and the private sector.

Before coming to North Carolina, Gonzales served as provost and vice president for academic affairs of the University of Texas at El Paso. He previously held senior academic and administrative posts at the University of South Florida and Georgetown University. In addition, Gonzales has held leadership positions at the National Institute of Mental Health and served as a principal investigator for Cambridge-based Abt Associates, one of the world’s top-ranked research firms.

The BOG voted, with little explanation, in January 2015 to relieve Ross of the presidency as he began his fifth year.

Ross made it clear he was not ready to retire. The board’s then-chair, John Fennebresque ’70, offered no explanation about why the board shortened Ross’ presidency, and none emerged in the ensuing months. The board has come under continuing criticism for the move, which is widely seen as the political strategy of the Republican-dominated board.

Also Friday, the BOG elected Asheville attorney W. Louis Bissette Jr. ’68 (JD) to complete the unexpired two-year term of Fennebresque as its chair. Bissette had been interim chair since Fennebresque resigned the post in October. The term ends June 30.