Pat Evans, the chairwoman of the group, said the chancellor was an unexpected addition to the meeting’s schedule.
“Well, first I was in contact with Patti, but she said she doesn’t go anywhere without Holden,” Evans said.
Evans wanted the pair to speak because of their enthusiasm for the downtown community and the strong relationship they helped build between the University and Chapel Hill.
The Thorps said they were particularly proud of the work they did to build the Ackland Museum Store in what used to be an unoccupied building in the middle of downtown.
“The town was going nuts trying to figure out what to do,” Patti Thorp said.
Evans said Patti Thorp has given generously to local arts programs in the past.
“It’s just one thing after another,” Evans said.
Holden Thorp said he came into his job as chancellor wanting to improve the relationship the University had with Chapel Hill.
“It was just taking up a lot of energy for the University to argue with the town as much as we were,” he said.
Holden Thorp said it didn’t make sense for the two bodies to be adversaries because the students, faculty and staff of the University make up a large part of the community.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he has had a strong professional relationship with the couple since Thorp became chancellor.
Their personalities have made them great leaders in the town, he said.
“Holden’s not the kind of person that approaches the problem and says, ‘Oh, that’s impossible,’” Kleinschmidt said.
And while Holden Thorp’s approach is thoughtful and tempered, Kleinschmidt said Patti brings a sense of enthusiasm to everything she does.
“She has a huge personality,” he said.
“You can’t be in the same room with her and not feel it.”
The Thorps said they will miss the weather, the lack of traffic and the people who they said made the town great.
“It’s our thank-you tour,” Patti Thorp said. “Not our goodbye tour, but our thank-you tour.”
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