CHAPEL HILL – Former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp returned to Chapel Hill this weekend. It was his first time back on campus since he departed this summer for Washington University in Saint Louis to take on his new role as Provost.
“It’s great being back in Chapel Hill, seeing old friends, and seeing a lot of the things I started and how they are doing,” Thorp said. “It’s good seeing the campus in such a great spirit and things going so well so well for Chancellor Folt.”
Thorp gave a lecture on Sunday about the importance of the study of the Humanities at the University.
Following his talk, he received several standing ovations from a crowd which included Chair of the UNC Board of Trustees Lowry Caudill and Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham.
Chancellor Carol Folt took over as the University’s leader on July 1. Thorp said he met with Carolina’s first female chancellor on Friday for an extended lunch to catch up.
During his time as Chancellor, Thorp led Carolina through academic and athletic scandals which still haunt the University to this day.
Last year, Thorp announced his intention to step down as Chancellor into a faculty role effective June 30, but he later decided to depart Chapel Hill and accepted the Provost position at Washington University.
“The Provost job is a job that is well suited to me. My boss and me are completely in sync on many different things. It is a university that is unapologetically bold in its aspirations for academic excellence.”
Thorp on UNC sports
Thorp, an avid sports fan, said he didn’t make it over to Raleigh to watch the Tar Heel football team defeat N.C. State 27-19 on Saturday, but he did find a way to celebrate the game here in Chapel Hill.
“My college roommate and I watched it on TV,” Thorp said. “At halftime, to feel like old times, we walked over to the Yogurt Pump for some frozen yogurt, which is what we used to do when we lived in Connor Dorm 30 years ago.”
Thorp said he wouldn’t be able to make it back for many basketball games in Chapel Hill, but said he was still nevertheless ready for UNC’s first game of the season this Friday against the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies.
“I hadn’t bought a television in a long time, and I bought myself a very large HD TV, so I’m looking forward to basketball season.”
On his legacy
Leaving a legacy of encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation at Carolina, Thorp said he was most proud of his part in improving college accessibility during his time as Chancellor.
“It’s something I knew would be important to provide the kind of opportunity in a college education that happens here [UNC]. When you leave, you see how precious and wonderful a thing it is,” Thorp said. “I know Chancellor Folt is really amazed by that, coming from private, higher education. This tradition we have of meeting 100 percent of need and being need-blind and having 1-in-5 of our students being the first generation of in their family to go to college—I mean, God, that is even better and more important than I thought it was when I was here.”
As far as his plans to return to Chapel Hill one day, he said, “I’ve given up on trying to speculate what will happen in the future.”
Thorp said he will remain with Washington University for as long as he is needed.