10 A.M. FRIDAY — UNC-system President Erskine Bowles announced this morning that he will retire from his post at the end of the year.
The announcement was expected. Bowles, who took the job in 2006, repeatedly said he only intended to hold the position for five years. Bowles turns 65 in August, the customary age for the system president to step down.
"Five years is about all anyone can stand under Erskine Bowles," he said at the UNC-system Board of Governors meeting, where he made the annoucement.
"While I am still as energized and committed to this job and while I love this university, I want to give this board plenty of time to launch this search and identify the right person to lead this university in the years ahead."
Bowles said that he had accomplished many of his goals as president, chief among them improving efficiency and accountability, and that the system was in a good place to introduce a new leader.
"I am confident that this board and university are ready and equipped for this transition," he said. "I have no doubt that you will attract a very competitive pool of candidates to what I believe is the best job in America."
But there is still work to be done before he leaves, he said.
"What I'm good at, we will have gotten done," he said. "At the end of the day, if we don't get there, it will be my fault."
Bowles plans to leave by the end of 2010, but that is contingent on the Board of Governors naming his successor and on the transition being completed, he said.
"I'm not going to leave this place unguarded," he said.
Board of Governors Chairwoman Hannah Gage said a search committee will be organized within the next two to three weeks and that many of the board members have already expressed interest in being part of that committee.
The board wants someone who can carry on Bowles' initiatives and his approach to higher education, she said.
"In the last four years, we've redirected and redesigned the way we do things." Gage said. "In a perfect world, you would clone Erskine. The mindset in the system is not something we're eager to change."
The board has known for awhile that Bowles intended to step down in 2010, Gage said. Bowles opted to make the announcement now so that questions about his resignation wouldn't get in the way of getting things done.
"As long as people were speculating, he couldn't buckle down," she said.
The UNC system is more efficient and more effective today and has survived the recession better than any other public university system, Bowles said.
"This is the right decision at the right time," he said.
He said he might pursue projects in the business sector and could get involved with government and politics again, but not anything partisan. He also said he has no intention of running for office again."What I'm good at is bringing people together to find common sense solutions to problems."
Prior to coming to the UNC system, Bowles served in the administration of former President Bill Clinton. He was his deputy chief of staff from 1994-95 and chief of staff from 1996-98. He also ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2002 and 2004.
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