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The Daily Tar Heel

Bowles made a difference: UNC-system president leaves after an impressive tenure

Although UNC-system President Erskine Bowles has only been in office fewer than five years, he has undoubtedly left his mark.

It will take a capable and effective successor to see through the initiatives and issues that he will leave behind when he formally steps down by the end of 2010.

This past year has arguably been the most arduous of Bowles’ tenure. A budget crisis in the face of the Great Recession along with a burgeoning administration presented tough decisions to be made.

In response, Bowles put in motion the elimination of roughly 900 jobs across the UNC system to combat rising administrative costs. He has also lobbied heavily for lower tuition increases and for campuses to get the full tuition revenue from the N.C. General Assembly-mandated $200 increase rather than have it go to the state’s coffers.

But short-term challenges have not exclusively defined Bowles’ tenure. Perhaps more prominent among Bowles’ characteristics is his pronounced dedication to forging a stronger partnership between the University and the state.

This dedication is best represented in the UNC Tomorrow initiative. Since February 2007, this initiative involving the entire UNC system has sought to utilize the campuses to meet the needs of North Carolina at large.

And the initiative has been well worth Bowles’ support. A recent report on the economic impacts of the UNC system sheds light on the impact that the campuses have on the state.

Service efforts on the part of the campuses touch between one-third and one-half of all residents each year. If the UNC system was an industry, it would be North Carolina’s 11th largest.

Bowles’ support has played an important role in maximizing the positive benefit provided by the UNC system.

Formal implementation of UNC Tomorrow will continue through January 2012. Bowles’ successor will need to share his belief of service to the state to facilitate the success of UNC Tomorrow through 2012 and into the future.

Board of Governors Chairwoman Hannah Gage said a search committee will be assembled in the coming weeks to begin the process of selecting Bowles’ replacement.

It will be imperative that this committee seeks a strong and respectable leader who can represent the UNC system well and lobby successfully on its behalf. This is especially important given the continued uncertainty of the fiscal climate. Budget concerns and tuition increases are likely to continue to loom over the UNC system next year and perhaps longer.

But perhaps more importantly, the search committee must not overlook the need to find a candidate who shares Bowles’ invaluable commitment to serving North Carolina.

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