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Monday March 27th

Thorp tapped for arts, sciences dean

Beats out three other finalists

Holden Thorp, chairman of UNC's Department of Chemistry, will serve as the next dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, according to an internal e-mail sent Friday by Chancellor James Moeser.

"I'm looking forward to learning about what inspires creativity in all these different disciplines," Thorp said. "I know about how scientists come up with original things to do, but I have no idea about how historians and Shakespeare scholars do that."

The announcement marks the end of a journey that began three years ago for Thorp. He applied for the position when it was open in 2004, but officials selected former dean Bernadette Gray-Little instead of Thorp.

The position opened in July when Gray-Little stepped down to accept the post of provost.

He will take office July 1, pending approval from the UNC Board of Trustees, which will set his salary. Interim dean Madeline Levine makes $132,000 a year.

Thorp's familiarity with UNC and his enthusiasm for the college were key factors in the search committee's decision, said Linda Dykstra, the committee's chairwoman.

"He's very energetic, very interested in the position - has a lot of drive, commitment to the college," Dykstra said.

Thorp has a long history at UNC as both a student and professor.

He graduated from UNC in 1986 with a degree in chemistry and went on to receive his Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1989.

Thorp has been a UNC faculty member for 14 years and has served in several administrative positions.

Before accepting the chairman position in the chemistry department, Thorp was director of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, where he raised funds and revamped programs to help promote the center.

"A couple things that we thought were strong were his record as a scholar and teacher," Dykstra said. "He has a great deal of fundraising experience - probably the most of the four that we interviewed.

"Deans have to spend a good deal of time raising funds to put the University at the next level."

As dean, Thorp will oversee 54 different academic departments, which include more than 900 faculty and staff

Thorp was one of four finalists competing for the position.

The other three were: Steven Matson, chairman of UNC's Department of Biology; Virginia Sapiro, a professor in the department of political science and women's studies program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and David Zaret, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University-Bloomington.

As a scientist with little background in the arts or humanities, Thorp said that he has some things to learn before taking on major projects.

"The biggest challenge will be whether I have enough time to understand all the challenges before I have to start making decisions that affect all those folks," he said.

Dykstra said Thorp will have to acclimate himself to the multiple roles that the dean must play.

"I think that will stretch him in terms of really understanding how scholarship happens in other areas," she said.

Thorp said that despite his numerous years at the University, he's still learning.

"I've been here for 24 years - there are a lot of things that go on in the college that I don't have as much familiarity with as I need to."

Contact the University Editor at

Key duties of the college dean

  • Oversee 54 different academic departments, which include more than 900 faculty and staff
  • Make decisions about faculty tenure, retention and hiring
  • Lead fundraising efforts for the college


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