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We sat down with Margaret Spellings just months before her early resignation


UNC-system President Margaret Spellings met with reporters on Wednesday to discuss her early resignation, Silent Sam and her relocation to North Carolina.

UNC-system President Margaret Spellings hosted Breakfast and Conversation Wednesday morning as an informal but on-the-record conversation for media members. Spellings announced her resignation in October, and will officially resign on Mar. 1, 2019. Here are some of the most asked questions by various media members present.

Why did you decide to “bow out early?”

As Kenny Rogers said, “You gotta know when to hold em’ and know when to fold em,” and you know, I just think people are for a time and for a situation, and I think I was absolutely the right person three years ago. We’ve gotten a lot done – a strategic plan, put a lot of infrastructure in place and in a management sense the data dashboards, the data modernization stuff that we’re working on – you know, on and on. It just was the right time to let somebody else have the reigns.

Next week UNC has to give the proposal about Silent Sam. Have you got any indication of what they’re planning to do with it?

I’m eager to get the report like everybody. They’ll unveil that on Dec. 3. I know they’ve done a lot of good homework in terms of accessing the security issues, getting input and thoughts from lots of constituencies. They’ve held public forums, you know, on and on. And they’ve looked at, and are looking at, a set of options that will meet the requirements of the law and maybe some that would require statuary change. So I think they are in the process of doing a really thorough review – one of the things I think is a very interesting question, and frankly an observation about North Carolina generally, is governance, I euphemistically say. You know, are we organized for success? So we’ve got a Board of Trustees, and a chancellor in administration, and a president, and a Board of Governors, and a historical commission and a legislature, so there’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and so where that all ends and … whether a decision will stick prior to legislative action remains to be seen.

Some people look for you to take certain stances (about Silent Sam.) Do you think you should?

Well, I think I should at the right time. I’m also a person that respects process, and I think that’s appropriate for me and the chancellors. I mean, it would’ve been wrong for me to opine on what I thought should have happened with Silent Sam while we had given Carolina the option to, “go please have a process,” to consider these issues, consider the security, consider the options. For me to preempt that would’ve been presumptuous.

You made North Carolina your home for the past three years. What will you miss most about it?

Oh my gosh – I have been thinking that, there’s so much I’m going to miss. I’m going to miss this beautiful home. Maryann Roper was over the other day, and I was kind of showing her around – and if I do say modestly, I’ve done some good things to it; it looks really pretty – and we went on the garden tour and all of that. I’ve loved living here. The natural beauty, as I say, is just incredible. I did buy a little beach cottage in Bald Head, and I’m really hoping that I can get a J-O-B so I can pay for it. No, I’m planning to keep it. I mean the people, the diversity of the state, the love and respect for public higher education – and I’ve kind of gotten to enjoy pork barbecue.

What do you want your legacy to be?

A focus on “majoring in the majors,” as I say. One of the things I’m most proud about the higher expectations strategic plan is how kind of straightforward and coherent it is – you could pass it out on the street and people would understand what it was. We could talk about funding models, this and that… but the strategic plan is really on point for the people of this state for what we need to grow and prosper.


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