The first few times I heard Chancellor Holden Thorp speak to assembled groups I noted he rarely missed an opportunity to talk about his work, the University’s work, as work “for the people of North Carolina”. 

With his consistency, Thorp managed to convey that what was good for UNC was good for the far corners of our state and he was almost always glad to make the case about why.  

I’ve done a fair amount of media training and I’m always impressed (and surprised) when a public figure can stay on message with such discipline.  I’ve come to learn that degree of discipline exists only when the messenger believes in it. 

Public education is taking body blows in the form of budget cuts and higher education is taking upper cuts in the form of insults as elitist.  The Chancellor got in the ring with these opponents intent on keeping quality public higher education available at UNC-CH.  He seemed to be winning, too, though the knockout round was in the distance. 

As a fighter, Thorp used his school and his faculty’s estimable reputation to forge ahead.    But all that strategy takes enormous concentration, even for someone that clever.  When he had to turn from the main ring and fight other battles, something was lost.  It must have been hideous to turn away from working “for the people of North Carolina” to question trusted employees about their ethics.  It must have been hideous to worry about his own family because sports fans disagreed with a decision.  

So, with his resignation it appears Chancellor Thorp found a new way to think about what he believes is best for UNC and the people of North Carolina.  I think this smart educator, father, husband and North Carolinian found a path that allows him to keep working for all of his constituencies.

This Savvy Spender is sad to see him step off the front lines battling for the public good but I have to believe that message from which he never deviated, that he was “working for the people of North Carolina” will still be true even if fighting from a different spot.

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