UNC replacing firm working on search for fundraising chief

By Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Plans for a long-delayed comprehensive campaign at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to raise $3 billion have taken yet another turn with the replacement of the search firm hired earlier this year to help find a new vice chancellor for development.

The latest move, which dismissed search firm Witt/Kieffer, was made with the participation of Carol Folt, interim president of Dartmouth, who was selected in April to become UNC’s new chancellor, effective July 1.

“With her input, the [vice chancellor for development search] committee is now moving forward with the search,” Karen Moon, director of UNC News Services, said in an email message to Philanthropy North Carolina.

“We are using a different firm,” she said. “The committee is in the early stages of identifying candidates and is pleased with its progress.”

Witt/Kieffer was hired “to help move the search process to a point where the Chancellor-Elect, once named, could become readily engaged,” Moon said.

She said a new firm had not yet been selected and that Witt/Kieffer had been dismissed because the “search committee, with input from Chancellor-Elect Folt, decided to go in a different direction with the search process.”

Moon said a campaign planning cabinet of volunteers is “actively working” and will “focus on helping the University create a vision for the campaign: its big overarching themes and how to communicate them.”

Schools and units throughout the UNC campus “have begun to identify priorities,” she said. “However, there is no official timeline for the campaign, as the Chancellor-Elect and the new Vice Chancellor for Development will need to be involved in those decisions,” Moon said.

Scott Ragland, director of development communications at UNC, told Philanthropy North Carolina that plans for a capital campaign had been in limbo pending the selection of a new chancellor and a new vice chancellor of development.

“Until those people are in place, we don’t know” details of campaign plans, including a possible schedule for launching the campaign’s quiet and public phases, Ragland said. “We are not going to establish a timetable without their input.”

Thorp announced last September he would step down as chancellor, effective July 1, an announcement he made a week after Matt Kupec quit as the long-time vice chancellor for university advancement.

Both resignations came in the wake of disclosures that Kupec and another fundraiser at UNC with whom he was having a romantic relationship had taken at least 25 personal trips at the University’s expense.

Thorp, who later was selected as provost at Washington University in St. Louis, in January named an 11-member search committee to help identify candidates to be the school’s new vice chancellor for development.

In a message at the time to faculty and staff, Thorp said that, with the search for a new chancellor “well under way, it’s important to initiate the process now to time the vice chancellor search so my successor will have an opportunity to provide input and be involved in the interview process and final selection.”

Thorp said he had made that decision after consulting with his predecessor, James Moeser.

Witt/Kieffer was hired at that time.

Four years ago, UNC was poised to begin a multi-billion-dollar campaign when the capital markets collapsed, prompting the school to put the campaign on hold.

One year ago, Thorp and Kupec reportedly asked the UNC board of trustees to okay the start of the campaign’s silent phase last July, but the board vetoed that request, saying the school was not ready and should devote another year to developing its strategy.

After Kupec’s resignation, Thorp named Julia Sprunt Grumbles, former corporate vice president at Turner Broadcasting, as interim vice chancellor for university advancement.

And Elizabeth Dunn retired in January as senior associate vice chancellor for university advancement.

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