A Tar Heel Welcome

Carol Folt is the third of Carolina’s 11 chancellors in the past 68 years not to be a North Carolinian, a UNC graduate or both. (The other two were Paul Sharp, who served in 1964-66 and James Moeser, who served from 2000 to 2008.) Just as I visited James Moeser in his Lincoln, Neb., office, I spent a day on Dartmouth’s campus and visited with Carol Folt to, as I told her, “see where you have spent the last 30 years of your life so we can be helpful as you make this important transition.”

GAA President Doug Dibbert ’70During our visit, I encouraged Chancellor Folt to approach her new challenge as a marathon, not a sprint. While many of Carolina’s more than 295,000 living alumni are eager to meet our dynamic new chancellor in person, we must remember that we share her with 29,000-plus students, 3,600-plus faculty, 8,000-plus University staff, 170 members of the N.C. General Assembly, 32 members of the UNC System Board of Governors, 13 members of UNC’s Board of Trustees as well as colleagues at other member institutions of the Association of American Universities, North Carolina taxpayers and others.

At her inauguration on University Day, Chancellor Folt spoke enthusiastically about “Carolina warmth and a Tar Heel welcome” and about her excitement to be leading one of the nation’s great public research universities. “It is the privilege of my life to be here,” she concluded, adding, “Together, we can make history.”

Chancellor Folt spoke of Carolina’s “legacy of excellence and public service” and of “working and learning with some of the world’s brightest and most passionate people, on far-reaching questions with people who have a drive to create, to teach, to learn and to heal.” She affirmed her belief “in the capacity of the great public university to help build a just, safe, more prosperous, and sustainable world … to advance knowledge and work with our communities and our businesses to address critical, destabilizing global issues like declining fresh water, food, climate change, poverty, human rights and disease.” Revealing in part why she would leave a great Ivy League institution for a great public university, Folt proclaimed that “our public universities must lead in this. We educate the greatest number of students, and we do it in the spirit of the public good.”

Chancellor Folt went on to predict that “we are on the cusp of the most significant change in how we think about education in America in a century, and it will make our students even more active and flexible learners and better prepare them for the changing world they are inheriting.” She observed that “our students — undergraduates, graduates and professionals — are so strong. They are independent and collaborative. They publish. They compose. They start companies. They study around the world … they pride themselves as people who look outward, who care about the world. … Our students carry Carolina’s tradition of excellence and public service forward in their lives after graduation, as leaders in their professions, their communities, and loyal, involved and extremely generous members of our community. Carolina is also one of the most accessible and affordable universities in America, due to support from the state, alumni and friends.”

As Chancellor Folt concluded her inaugural address, she recalled that “Carolina began as a fresh idea in a new nation. We need to keep that freshness as we anticipate our future in a time of such rapid change,” and she vowed that “we will make choices about the things that we do, and we will find the means to take risks and try some new things. We cannot afford to stand still in a world that is moving so quickly ahead. … We will work across schools to develop a stronger voice and a communications strategy that will help us tell the world about Carolina’s successes, and we are going to continue to work with our UNC System partners to support our strategic plan and to foster new connections. And most of all, we will become better listeners.”

In her first few months, Chancellor Folt already has made important appointments to UNC’s senior leadership team. Joining her on July 1 as executive vice chancellor and provost was James W. Dean Jr., former dean of Kenan-Flagler Business School. In the fall, Chancellor Folt appointed David Routh ’82 as vice chancellor for development and Joel Curran ’86 as vice chancellor for communications and public affairs. She is expected soon to name new vice chancellors for finance and administration and for human resources.

We each understand that leaders get one chance to create a first impression. As Carolina’s newest chancellor, Carol Folt continues to make important, positive first impressions that are earning much-needed support for our University. Each of us must not only cheer but also help her as she continues to run a marathon for us all.

Yours at Carolina,

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Douglas S. Dibbert ’70

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