CHAPEL HILL – Before UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp and his wife Patti depart for WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt proclaimed on Thursday that the doors of Chapel Hill are always open to the Thorp family.

“In grateful recognition of your service to our community, I, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, do hereby present Holden and Patti Thorp with this key to the town,” Mayor Kleinschmidt said. “The other night, I kind of stumbled on a phrase that I wish I would have thought of earlier: together, the two of you have really exemplified what it means to be a citizen-chancellor at a state university.”

Though the rain moved the ceremony from the Old Well to inside the SouthBuilding, it didn’t dampen the spirits. Mayor Kleinschmidt, Patti, and others were seen holding back tears of joy and sadness when speaking of what the family has meant to the community and the impending departure.

“You consider the impact of this university here in our town,” Mayor Kleinschmidt said. “And you did it in a way that really transformed the relationship of the Town of Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina.”

Habitat for Humanity of Orange County was also on hand to present the couple with personalized hard hats for all the work they’ve done over the years. However, the Thorps said it was never physical labor.

“We’re great at trying to get people together and get them out there, but we’re not handy people,” Patti said.

“No, and I have to say I’m very proud of everything we’ve done for Habitat, but thankfully I’ve never hammered any nails for you,” Chancellor Thorp said.

Chancellor Thorp leaves the University after five years at the helm, but many more as a student, teacher, and administrator. He and his wife are both graduates of UNC and Patti said that in their more than 20 years in Chapel Hill, it has always been a desire to strengthen the town and gown relationship.

“People will come and go, but the stage is set for these relationships,” Patti said. “That’s the main thing.”

Present and former members of the Town Council, town staff, and citizens were also on hand to officially see the Thorp family off.

Chancellor Thorp’s term officially ends July 1, at which time he will take over as Provost at WashU.

“Well, this is your building, and you’re welcome to stay as long as you want,” Chancellor Thorp said. “I’m leaving tomorrow, so if you see anything you’d like, just take it.”