Education is a multibillion-dollar industry in North Carolina with a wide array of K-12 schools, robust public and private universities, and a 58-campus community college system. This section features some of its most notable leaders, whose success is considered essential for the state to make economic and social progress.
chancellor | Fayetteville State
The Kannapolis native took his current post in March 2021 after serving on the UNC System Board of Governors from 2017 to 2020 and leading a Raleigh nonprofit that promoted K-12 school choice programs. At the historically black university, he’s focused on retaining students, adding scholarships, and expanding programs for adults and military-connected students. He is a graduate of N.C. Central University and UNC Chapel Hill, where he earned a law degree.
president | Elon University
Book became Elon’s first female president in 2018 after serving as provost of The Citadel. She previously spent 16 years at Elon as a professor and provost. She has degrees from Louisiana State and Northwestern State universities and a Ph.D. in mass communications from the University of Georgia.
Pre-workday motivation: I’m a big fan of starting the day with a spiritual reading and a walk outdoors. Being in nature — even if it is snowing! — helps clear my head.
Key to industry success: Strategic planning and execution keep higher education responsive to the dynamic needs of society. I enjoy imagining a future then building it.
Best advice: I have worked with so many helpful and generous people over the years. Here’s one I use daily that I learned at The Citadel from seasoned veterans: “Go to the point of friction.” In other words, don’t shy away from the tough questions or situations — jump right in so you can work to keep advancing.
Proud family accomplishment: Both of my children are kind-hearted people. My daughter just finished law school at the University of Michigan and returned to North Carolina to practice. She is working at Legal Aid of North Carolina to make a difference. My son is returning to college to earn a graduate degree in student counseling. He has a gift for working with young people.
chancellor | Western Carolina
The university’s first female chancellor assumed her role in 2019. Since her arrival, there’s been a continued studentcentered focus and innovation in teaching. Before moving to North Carolina, the Southern Illinois University graduate was provost at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia.
superintendent | Guilford County
Contreras has won kudos for helping close the graduation-rate gap between Black and white students and boosting academic achievement since coming to North Carolina in 2016. She is the first woman, first person of Latina heritage and first with a disability — she is deaf — to lead the system. She is taking a new job, CEO of Raleigh-based The Innovation Project, a collaborative of N.C. school superintendents, in August.
J. BRADLEY CREED
president | Campbell University
Creed, 65, was a religion professor and provost at Samford University and the dean of Baylor University’s seminary before being named Campbell’s president in 2015. The Texas native holds master’s of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Pre-workday motivation: Focusing on the key priorities for the day and working with colleagues to achieve the priorities that will advance our university.
Key to industry success: Staying true to your core mission while adapting new vision and seizing opportunities for fulfilling the mission amidst rapid and constant changes in society and the marketplace.
Best advice: Who you are is more important than what you do. Play the long game because life is a long obedience in the same direction.
Three people to share a meal: Saint Augustine of Hippo, Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt.
Proud family accomplishment: My family members have discovered and are living out their callings. In their own and unique ways, they are serving others, contributing to the common good and adding to human flourishing.
Favorite hobby: Anything that gets me outdoors and gets me moving — primarily running, hiking, backpacking, kayaking and bicycling.
Where to entertain a visitor: A meal at Campbell University then a tour of campus.
chair | State Board of Education
Davis joined the board in 2015 and became its chair in 2018. Previously, he was an elected member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board and the U.S. Green Building Advisory Council’s Charlotte chapter board. A U.S. Military Academy graduate, he works as an engineer.
president | Central Piedmont
Deitemeyer, who is the college’s fourth president, leads its six Mecklenburg County campuses. The University of South Florida graduate serves on the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council and was president of N.C. Association of Community College Presidents for 2020-2021.
chancellor | Appalachian State
Everts, who attended a one-room schoolhouse while growing up in Nebraska, became ASU’s eighth leader in 2014. She has overseen rapid growth at ASU, including a recent groundbreaking for an innovation district and expansion in Hickory. The former vice president and provost for academic affairs at Illinois State University, she has a doctorate in education from the University of Nebraska.
chancellor | UNC Charlotte
Gaber was named leader of one of the state’s largest public universities in 2020. Previously, she was president of the University of Toledo for five years and served as provost at the University of Arkansas. The Southern California native has a doctorate in city and regional planning from Cornell University.
Pre-workday motivation: I always try to make time for a workout with my trainer and a walk around campus with my dog, Augie. It’s easy to be motivated because of my excitement for everything that’s happening here. I work with outstanding faculty and staff colleagues who are dedicated to our university and community, and I interact with exceptional students who give me great faith in our future.
Key to industry success: First, you need to meet people “where they are.” People have different backgrounds and different experiences. Those influence how they respond to decisions and solve problems. Second, you have to listen to all corners of your institution. Faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, friends, community members all have important feedback to offer, and sometimes they simply want to be heard. Most importantly, you need to hear what is being unsaid. Finally, learn and practice self-awareness. Chancellors and other CEOs need to find the appropriate balance between knowing when the best thing you can do is to offer assistance and when your best help is to let your leaders lead.
Best advice: Always be willing to take a risk. It is advice I pass to our students and young professionals. If an opportunity is presented and you’re interested, say so! Take them and run. You never know what door they may open.
Proud family accomplishment: I am a proud mom of three adult kids. They all graduated college and are building their own lives and experiencing their own adventures.
Favorite hobby: I love to play tennis, visit with my children, walk Augie around campus to talk with students, and discover new places and things to do in the Queen City.
Where to entertain a visitor: Dinner at the Golden Owl Tavern in the new UNC Charlotte Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. It’s great to be able to enjoy a high-quality dining experience on campus then hop on the light rail to enjoy everything Uptown Charlotte has to offer.
chancellor | UNC Greensboro
Gilliam became the university’s 11th chancellor in 2015 after working as a professor and dean at UCLA. During his tenure, the campus has received a Millennial Campus designation, facilitating expansion in health and arts programs. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Iowa, where he received its Distinguished Alumni Award.
Pre-workday motivation: Knowing that we’re making a difference in people’s lives. Thirty percent of our undergraduate students identify as first-generation college students, and 52% are eligible for federal Pell Grants. We’ve focused on meeting them where they are with innovative resources and support programs. We’ve been successful. US News and World Report ranked us No. 1 in social mobility in this state for the last three years and most recently No. 13 nationally.
Key to industry success: Perseverance, and along the way, the ability to be flexible, creative and adaptive.
Best advice: My father always said, “Dogs don’t bark at parked cars.”
Three people to share a meal: Prince, W.E.B. Du Bois and Fannie Lou Hamer.
Proud family accomplishment: Jacquie, my wife of 30 years, inspires me with her dedication to our family and her commitment to making the world a better place through her altruism as a community leader for nonprofit organizations supporting children, education, the arts and humanities, and more. One of our signature university events, Toys for Joy, was her idea. Since it started in 2018, more than 1,600 toys have been donated to local charities that support children and families in need. My daughter, Ari, and my son, Trey, are young adults who are independent, focused and working hard as they make their way in a complicated landscape. I know they have inherited their mother’s dedication to service.
Favorite hobby: Playing guitar. I take regular lessons and have had the chance to play alongside incredibly talented students in UNCG’s School of Music, world-class musicians and faculty members in our internationally recognized jazz studies program, and I was fortunate to meet legend Miles Davis when he performed here.
Where to entertain a visitor: UNCG’s beautiful campus for a golf cart tour, including the Weatherspoon Art Museum and a Spartan athletic event.
chancellor | UNC Chapel Hill
A member of the university’s faculty since 1995, Guskiewicz succeeded Carol Folt as chancellor in 2019. He’s a Kenan Distinguished Professor of Exercise and Sport Science and co-director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center. His Ph.D. is from the University of Virginia.
president | UNC System
The first generation of his family to graduate from college, Hans grew up in Southport and Hendersonville. He was named president of the 17-campus system in 2020, after leading the state’s 58-campus community college system. Much of his career has involved public policy work as he’s worked as a lobbyist and as an adviser to three Republican U.S. senators and former UNC System President Margaret Spellings. He chaired the system Board of Governors for two years. He has a bachelor’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill and a master’s of liberal arts from Harvard University.
senior vice president for finance,
chief financial officer | UNC System
Haygood was a top financial executive at N.C. Community College System for 12 years before joining President Peter Hans at UNC in 2020. UNC’s annual expenditures are about $9 billion. A graduate of Duke and Rice universities, she is a director of the State Employees Credit Union.
president | North Carolina
Association of Educators
The veteran Cumberland County Schools music teacher has been president of the National Education Association affiliate since July 2020, helping raise the profile of teachers in the media and at the legislature. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at East Carolina University.
HAROLD MARTIN SR.
chancellor | N.C. Agricultural and
Technical State University
Martin, 70, has led his alma mater and the nation’s largest historically Black university that graduates the most Black engineers since 2009. It followed a similar post at his hometown’s Winston-Salem State University and about 16 years as an N.C. A&T professor and administrator.
Pre-workday motivation: I am inspired by the significant opportunities for our university to compete as a top-tier doctoral research university and the work we do every day to continue to demonstrate the excellence of our institution.
Best advice: My mentors shared two key points. One is that failure is not an option, so I always set out to be successful. The other is to create good habits that motivate me to be the best I can be.
Three people to share a meal: Barack Obama, Denzel Washington and Tim Cook.
Proud family accomplishment: I am most proud of the love and support we provide each other and the core values we hold as a family. We have been able to share and pass down those values from our great grandparents to our children. Fortunately, my wife and I have lived long enough to see them realize their aspirational goals and pass those values to our five grandchildren.
Favorite hobby: I love to read. One of my favorite genres is science fiction, and Isaac Asimov is one of my favorite authors. I’m passionate about golf, too.
Where to entertain a visitor: I love to give visitors a quick tour of our campus and share its impact on east Greensboro. I also show them the school’s art galleries. We have an incredible collection that displays the exceptional talent of our students and alumni, and we exhibit African-American art that reflects African-American history. I also like to take visitors to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, so they can see the impact of our university and our courageous freshmen students on the world.
president | Duke University
Leader of the elite university since 2017, the political scientist was previously provost at the University of Pennsylvania and a former editor-in-chief of Public Opinion Quarterly. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University.
president | High Point University
Born in Lebanon, Qubein, 73, came to the United States as a teen. After a successful entrepreneurial and corporate career, he became the leader of his alma mater in 2005. Since then, enrollment has grown from 1,400 to nearly 6,000 and a 92-acre campus is now 520 acres with more than 100 new buildings. He’s been a director at Truist Financial or its predecessor BB&T since 1990.
Pre-workday motivation: A desire to serve all my constituents in a purposeful and meaningful way, bringing value to all I’m privileged to do.
Key to industry success: An ability to interpret value from the receiver’s perspective and a determination to provide the highest level of service.
Best advice: Who you spend time with is who you become. What you choose is what you get. How you change is how you succeed.
president | Wake Technical
Ralls was a leader of the N.C. Community College System from 2008-15 and a Washington, D.C. area community college for two years before taking the top spot at the state’s largest two-year school in 2019. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland and UNC Chapel Hill.
Pre-workday motivation: Coffee.
Key to industry success: Focus on students and the community.
Best advice: Surround yourself with people smarter than you.
Three people to share a meal: Volodymyr Zelensky, Bill Murray and Bruce Springsteen.
Proud family accomplishment: Their empathy for others.
chair | UNC System Board of
The former N.C. State University trustee is co-founder of boat builder and maintenance company Jarrett Bay Boatworks, which was acquired by Sun Communities for $50 million in February. He was appointed to the BOG in 2017 and succeeded Harry Smith as chair in 2019.
Best advice: Surround yourself with people who are more talented than you are. Set goals for them, and let them do their job without micromanaging their efforts.
Three People To Share A Meal: Ronald Reagan, Bill Friday and Chuck Yeager.
Proud family accomplishment: Their care for other people and willingness to help or simply listen.
Favorite hobby: Offshore fishing.
Where to entertain a visitor: Explaining how the community has evolved but remains proud of the history and traditions of the past.
president | James G. Martin Center
for Academic Renewal
Robinson joined the higher education research group, which was started in 2003 with the Pope family’s support, in 2007. She earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. at UNC Chapel Hill and previously served on the North Carolina Longitudinal Data System Board.
Pre-workday motivation: Lots of coffee.
Key to industry success: Knowledge and relationships.
Best advice: Do your homework.
Three people to share a meal: Dorothy L. Sayers, James Madison and Margaret Thatcher
Proud family accomplishment: I come from a family of hard workers. Some had a good deal of formal education, and some had very little. But they all found the best way they could to support the family and contribute to society.
Favorite hobby: Reading.
Where to entertain a visitor: North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
chancellor | East Carolina University
The former chief of staff to ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard was named to his post last year after working for the American Council on Education, a higher education trade association. The Greenville native has degrees from UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University.
president | Barton College
Searcy has helped Barton reach its largest enrollment in more than 30 years, raise a record amount of money and add several new master’s and undergraduate programs since being named president in 2016. New campus construction includes the completion of an athletic complex and installation of a fiber-optic ring to promote connectivity. He previously held senior posts at University of Mary Washington, and Wingate, Elon and Gardner-Webb universities. He has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska.
Pre-workday motivation: A good routine, including exercise, prayer and coffee, and a sense of purpose
Key to industry success: Putting students first — prioritizing their learning and helping them remove barriers to access and development.
Best advice: Listen to learn. Treat people how you want to be treated. Call your mother.
Three people to share a meal: Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln and James Taylor.
Proud family accomplishment: We have fun together. I am proud that they are good people — hard working, kind and generous.
Favorite hobby: Traveling, whether it’s to the coast or another continent. I also have taught photography and enjoy sports.
Where to entertain a visitor: The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum. Come to Wilson to see North Carolina’s official folk art.
THOMAS STITH III
president | N.C. Community College
The former U.S. Small Business Administration district director was Gov. Pat McCrory’s chief of staff. He succeeded Peter Hans last year as the leader of North Carolina’s community college network. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from N.C. Central University.
Pre-workday motivation: The N.C. Community College System fuels our state’s job engine by providing an accessible and affordable pathway to economic opportunity for our students. Students who attended North Carolina community colleges from July 2010 to June 2020 accounted for 34% of the state’s wage earners — 1.8 million people — and more than $65 billion earned in the 2021 fiscal year.
Key to industry success: The system quickly responds to the needs of business and industry and provides a highly educated and trained workforce. It’s a leader in the higher education ecosystem.
Best advice: Stay focused on the mission you have been called to pursue. When you let yourself become distracted by your detractors, they have achieved their goal.
Three people to share a meal: T.D. Jakes, Reginald Lewis and Robert F. Smith.
Proud family accomplishment: God has blessed me with a loving wife and three wonderful daughters. I am proud of how each has pursued their passions in life with a spirit grounded in faith. They are a daily source of inspiration.
Favorite hobby: Family time is what I treasure most. Trips, meals, stories and many laughs bring joy each day that we are together. My wife and I get such satisfaction in seeing our daughters accomplish so much in their educational and work experiences.
Where to entertain a visitor: I promote all of North Carolina. But a drive through Research Triangle Park is a must for me to brag about the bounty of our state — being a leader in biopharma, health care, and information technology and for attracting marquee corporations and having some of the top zip codes in the country. I, of course, have to brag about our great 58 community colleges and the more than half a million students that we serve each year.
executive director | North Carolina
After 13 years as a policy adviser in state government posts, including in Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger’s office, Warren joined the Collaboratory in 2017. State lawmakers formed the agency a year earlier to promote state and local government’s use of UNC System research and expertise. Warren has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, a master’s from Auburn University and a Ph.D. from UNC Chapel Hill.
chancellor | N.C. State University
The plant biologist, 65, has led the state’s largest university since 2010. N.C. State University enrolls more than 37,000 students, employs 2,500 professors and has an annual budget of $1.6 billion backed by a nearly $2 billion endowment. The former Purdue University provost is a Cornell University graduate.