UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Ross Elected UNC System President

090110Headline_TomRossThomas W. Ross, president of Davidson College and a former chair of the UNCG Board of Trustees, was unanimously elected president of the 17-campus University of North Carolina by the UNC Board of Governors on Aug. 26.

He will take office Jan. 1, succeeding Erskine Bowles, who announced in February that he would retire this December after five years in the post.

Ross has served as president of Davidson College since 2007.

Following his election, he told the Board of Governors: “To accept this job will require that I leave a job and place I love dearly,” referring to Davidson College. “It has been an emotional struggle for me to come to the decision to leave, but I do so feeling called to this position and to this University. I love this State of ours, and there is no institution more important to North Carolina and her future than the University of North Carolina.”

Chancellor Linda P. Brady said, “Tom Ross will be an outstanding leader for the University of North Carolina. He understands higher education and the challenges we face, and recognizes the historic support provided by the citizens of North Carolina for our University. I have enjoyed serving with him on the Southern Conference Council of Presidents.”

Before his presidency at Davidson, Ross was chairman of the UNCG Board of Trustees from 2005 to 2007. His tenure as a board member had begun in 2003.

During his years of service, UNCG achieved the Carnegie Classification of High-Research Activity University; numerous higher education bond projects started, including the renovation of historic Aycock Auditorium and Petty Science Building; construction of Spring Garden Apartments began; and the public phase of the Students First Campaign was launched.

He established the Tom and Susan Ross Civic Engagement Internship Scholarship and he served as honorary chair of the Individual Advance Leadership Committee for the Students First Campaign, 2004-09.

He has also served on the Board of Visitors for UNCG, as well as for UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University. He received an honorary doctorate from UNCG in May 2008, when he delivered the commencement address.

Ross was born and raised in Greensboro and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Davidson in 1972. He graduated with honors from UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Law. After a short stint as an assistant professor of public law and government at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Government, Ross joined the Greensboro law firm of Smith Patterson Follin Curtis James & Harkavy in 1976. He left the firm in 1982 to serve as chief of staff for U.S. Congressman Robin Britt. The following year, Ross was appointed by Gov. Jim Hunt to fill a vacancy on the North Carolina Superior Court. He held the position for the next 17 years.

In 1990, North Carolina’s Chief Justice tapped him to lead a new Sentencing and Policy Advisory Committee. Over the next two years, this panel devised a structured sentencing system that would toughen sentences for violent crimes and repeat offenses, while increasing community-based alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenses. Key goals were to minimize sentencing disparities and to prioritize resources more effectively without sacrificing public safety.

In 1999, Ross was appointed director of the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.

In 2001, he left the bench to serve as executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, a Winston-Salem-based philanthropic organization devoted to improving the lives of the people of North Carolina.

Ross stepped down in 2007 to return to Davidson as president.

Active in civic and community activities, Ross currently serves on the boards of Davidson, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the Hueston Foundation, the Warner Foundation, the Center for Creative Leadership, and the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities.

In the past, he has served on the boards of the North Carolina New Schools Project, the Kenan Institute for the Arts, the Institute of Government Foundation, the UNC Chapel Hill School of Law Alumni Foundation, and the Wake Forest University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Ross has been married since 1972 to Susan Donaldson Ross, a graduate of the UNC Chapel Hill School of Education and a former executive director of the Greensboro Bar Association.

“Our nationwide search attracted talent from many different professional backgrounds and from every part of the country, but in the end that long road led us back to North Carolina, to one of our own,” Board Chairman Hannah Gage said in recommending Ross to the Board of Governors. “In a time of great challenge and constant change, Tom Ross’ thoughtful leadership, his proven integrity, his deep understanding of North Carolina, and his lifelong commitment to improving the lives of people in every corner of our state make him the perfect choice to lead the university in the years ahead.”

Visual: Tom Ross delivered UNCG commencement address at Greensboro Coliseum in 2008.

Photography by Chris English