He has only been president of Davidson since August 2007. He earned his law degree with honors from UNC in 1975 and was named the youngest N.C. Superior Court Judge in 1984.
“The university is indeed very fortunate to have a man of his background and experience and his academic work,” Friday said.
“We are fortunate he’ll be coming to us in the service of the presidency. He is an able, remarkable, conscientious public servant.”
Ross also served as director of the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts — a job tied to the legislature — and executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, which distributes funding and grants across the state.
“His work at the foundation would have given him a broad knowledge of the assets, people and concerns of the state,” said Leslie Winner, current executive director of the foundation and former vice president and general counsel to UNC.
Former Davidson Mayor Randy Kincaid had nothing but praise.
“I just think the world of the guy,” he said. “He’s smart. He’s energetic. He’s scrupulously honest and a straight-shooter.”
The search to replace Bowles began in earnest in March, when three search committees formed with the purposes of writing a leadership statement, selecting a search consultant and vetting candidates in the final stages.
The committees hired R. William Funk and Associates, a Dallas consulting firm that conducts high-level administrative searches at universities across the country.
Funk recommended the board pass a pay increase for the new president to remain competitive in the search, and they approved a salary range of $495,000 to $550,000.
Early in the process, leaders said no individuals were presumed candidates for the job, and they would cast a wide net nationwide to find the right person.
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But Ross is a white male from North Carolina with a background in law — qualities common among high-level administrators.
In March, search leaders set a preliminary budget for the process at $100,000, but that figure was expected to change. The search to hire UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp two years ago cost $210,000.
When Ross takes office, he will oversee a vast and complex system that has seen $575 million in cuts in the last three years and has already cut 23 percent in expenses and nearly 900 administrative positions.
“We’re looking at another two or three legislative sessions that are going to be very, very challenging,” said Hannah Gage, head of the search committee, in May.
“I don’t think that we’re out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.”
Ross will serve as the public face and leader of the system, which Friday described as a unique role.
“The most important advice I could give him is to enjoy it,” Friday said. “Because it’s the position most responsible for public life in North Carolina. You can be a part of an enormous process that brings happiness to tens of thousands of people. It’s the most amazing thing you can do in your lifetime.”
Senior writers Sara Gregory and Tarini Parti contributed reporting.
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