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The Daily Tar Heel

Carney never applied for job

Bruce Carney was named provost after a search found no other match.
Bruce Carney was named provost after a search found no other match.

After almost a year of searching, Chancellor Holden Thorp found the person he wanted to be his right-hand man already had the job.

Thorp considered reopening the search when he couldn’t find a match, but administrators are not prepared to call it a failure, primarily because of their confidence in Bruce Carney — a well-respected figure who has worked at the University since 1980.

Carney was named the new executive vice chancellor and provost in a surprise move by Thorp, who bypassed three finalists selected by a search committee to pick Carney, who never applied for the job.

“I can speak for myself that if he had been a candidate in the very beginning, I would have been very pleased,” said Bob Winston, chairman of the Board of Trustees, which must approve the hire next week.

Thorp said the decision did not represent a desire for a specifically internal candidate for UNC’s chief academic officer and No. 2 administrator.

“I wouldn’t have spent all this time if I wasn’t keenly interested in making sure we had the best provost,” he said.

He said finding a perfect match in an administrative hire is one of the most difficult tasks he faces.

“They have to meet with all of the deans and vice chancellors to see if we’re looking at someone who’s a match,” Thorp said. “And after they’re here, if they still want to come, they have to decide if they can move, where their kids are going to go to school, all of those things. It’s not easy.”

Bernadette Gray-Little announced her decision to step down as executive vice chancellor and provost in May 2009 to become the new chancellor at Kansas University. UNC formed a 17-member search committee and hired a private search firm to replace her.

Thorp said he could not specifically comment on the hiring decisions for all of the finalists.

“All those stars have to line up. And we didn’t get that with the three finalists who came,” he said.

Finalists Anthony Monaco from the University of Oxford and Scott Zeger from Johns Hopkins University declined to comment.

Jeffrey Vitter, from Texas A&M University, did not return requests for interviews but was a finalist for another provost search after UNC’s.

Philip Hanlon, originally a finalist, became provost at the University of Michigan, where he already worked, immediately after UNC’s decision.

“You had a very good search consultant working on that search,” said Jean Dowdall, senior vice president at Witt/Kieffer, a search firm that has worked for UNC before. “So I’m going to assume they brought the best candidates who are out there.”

Thorp said he thought about re-opening the search when none of the finalists were a match.

“We could have gone back to the committee or we could have had another search next year,” he said. “But I didn’t think it was fair to Bruce to ask him to be interim for another year.”

A former physics professor whose planned sabbatical and research has been delayed by several interim positions, Carney never applied for the job permanently. But he reconsidered last week at Thorp’s request.

“It was better to have Bruce than the options that we had,” Thorp said. “And in the end, he is our provost.”

Winston said he would have listened to Thorp had the chancellor wanted to re-open the search.

“I do think that if Bruce hadn’t been as strong as he is, I bet you he would have opened it back up,” Winston said. “Part of the decision had to do with the strength of Bruce. It gave Holden comfort.”

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