On the day that Chancellor Holden Thorp charted an ambitious path for the University, the only visible surprise was the retirement of an institution.
Jaws dropped around the Carolina Inn ballroom as trustees and observers alike received the surprise news that Brenda Kirby, the University secretary, will retire by the end of this year.
For the last 32 years, Kirby has managed chancellors’ schedules, made their appointments and made sure they were in touch with the right people — but more than that, she has “been running the University,” Thorp said.
“It is not an overstatement to say that Brenda has been running the University for 32 years,” he said. “There is no way to replace the institutional knowledge that she has.”
Kirby has been in her current role as secretary of the University since 1980. She joined the University in 1972.
In this time, she has served two medical deans, six chancellors, 32 student body presidents and 69 trustees.
Earning an annual salary of $150,000, Kirby has not only overseen schedules but also drawn up her experience to offer advice.
“My job has been to be the chancellor’s right hand,” she said. “From time to time, when an issue comes up it is my job to tell them what it is about and how it should be handled.”
In this capacity, Kirby has also been an adviser to student government, said Zealan Hoover, student body vice president.