North Carolina is nationally known for its public and private universities and 58-campus community college system, which are often cited as key factors in the state’s growth. Improving the state’s K-12 public schools and encouraging an additional 2 million residents to complete postsecondary degrees or credentials by 2030 are key initiatives supported by many business and political leaders.
chairman | State Board of Community Colleges
The retired school principal, 74, was elected chairman in 2019. It’s one of the nation’s largest systems with 58 campuses.Read More
First job: History teacher
North Carolina’s challenge: Ensuring everyone has clean water and internet
Best advice: A handshake is a contract, and your word is your bond.
Proud family accomplishment: My son, who showed determination and found success in opening his business.
Favorite passions: Restoring my 1991 GMC truck and fishing
Person you admire: The Rev. Billy Graham
Favorite recent book: With All Due Respect by Nikki Haley
CONNIE LEDOUX BOOK
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 a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.Read More
First job: Kmart cashier, service desk and cash cage
Employer’s distinction: Our students-first culture. We believe in the power of relationships and hard work.
Best advice: Everything good accomplished comes from having a great team. They never get better than they are in the interview. If you have doubts, listen to your instinct.
chancellor | Western Carolina University
In 2019, Brown became the university’s 12th and first female chancellor. With a doctorate in education from Southern Illinois University, she has written on school and community partnerships. She was provost at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Ga., before coming to North Carolina.Read More
First job: Dental hygienist
Employer’s distinction: We thrive through community engagement, finding solutions and providing services to the region.
Favorite recent book: Anything written by John Grisham
Favorite music: Country western music
Something surprising: I was Miss Rodeo Ohio in 1981 and participated in Miss Rodeo America.
J. BRADLEY CREED
president | Campbell University
The Texas native was named president in 2015. He holds master’s of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before joining Campbell, he was provost and a religion professor at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and the dean of Baylor University’s seminary.
chairman | State Board of Education
Davis has served on the board since 2015 and became its chairman in 2018. A U.S. Military Academy civil engineering graduate who works for Wells Fargo, he was an elected member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board before being appointed to the state role.
president | Central Piedmont Community College
As the college’s fourth president, Deitemeyer leads its six Mecklenburg County campuses. She was named president of the N.C. Association of Community College Presidents last year. She holds a doctoral degree in counselor education and educational leadership from the University of South Florida.
chancellor | Appalachian State University
Everts, who attended a one-room schoolhouse growing up in Nebraska, took her post in 2014. Since then ASU has added about 2,000 students to more than 20,000 and boosted the percentage of minority and lower-income students. She has a doctorate in education from the University of Nebraska.
SHARON L. GABER
chancellor | UNC Charlotte
Gaber, 56, came to the state’s second-biggest public university last July after leading the University of Toledo for five years and serving as provost at the University of Arkansas. Enrollment now tops 30,000 students. She has a doctorate in city and regional planning from Cornell University.Read More
First job: My first job was at Del Taco. I was 14 years old and started working 20 hours a week throughout high school.
North Carolina’s challenge: One challenge that is foremost in my mind is the ability of all in our state to have access to an affordable, high-quality postsecondary education. We must continue innovating to accommodate a greater number of students and fully capitalize on the power of higher education as a vehicle for economic mobility. We’re providing access to help students move to the next opportunity; to be ready for jobs in virtually every sector and industry.
Proud family accomplishment: My three kids. They are all happy and healthy 20-somethings.
FRANK GILLIAM JR.
chancellor | UNC Greensboro
Gilliam became the university’s 11th chancellor in 2015. Since then, its enrollment has surpassed 20,000 and UNCG secured approval for a Millennial Campus designation to help expand its health and arts programs. He previously was dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. He has a doctorate in political science from the University of Iowa.Read More
First job: Assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin
North Carolina’s challenge: Increasing access to higher education for first-generation and Pell Grant-eligible college students
Favorite passion: Playing guitar
Favorite recent book: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Something surprising: I love architecture.
chancellor | UNC Chapel Hill
Guskiewicz, 54, succeeded Carol Folt in 2019. A member of the university’s faculty since 1995, he had led the College of Arts and Sciences since 2016. He’s a Kenan Distinguished Professor of Exercise and Sport Science with a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.Read More
First job: Paper route
Best advice: “Listen often, ask questions to keep all constituencies engaged and learn something new every day,” (Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity CEO)
Something surprising: My hometown — Latrobe, Pa. — is the birthplace of Mr. Rogers, Arnold Palmer and professional football.
president | UNC System
The former N.C. Community College System president, a former lobbyist and political aid, was selected to oversee the 17-campus system last year, succeeding William Roper. UNC has held tuition flat for five straight years, which Hans calls unprecedented. He is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate.
senior vice president of finance | UNC System
After a dozen years with the N.C. Community College System, Haygood switched to her current position last year. With degrees from Rice and Duke universities, she is responsible for the financial affairs of the multibillion dollar system, which has annual expenditures of nearly $5 billion.
president, CEO | MyFutureNC
The Duke University MBA, 57, and former IBM staffer gained her current post in 2019. The nonprofit’s goal is for 2 million additional North Carolinians to earn a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030.Read More
First job: Cindy’s restaurant in Whiteville
Employer’s distinction: We partner with local and state governments, business and other strategic partners to advance educational attainment among North Carolinians.
North Carolina’s challenge: Fewer than half of North Carolinians aged 25 to 44 have a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree, which are required by two-thirds of jobs statewide.
Best advice: “If your teammates fail, you fail and the ability to self-evaluate is the most important skill you can have.” (Bill Foster, IBM vice president)
Proud family accomplishment: My parents valued education and encouraged my dreams, centering me in the church and grounding me in my faith.
Something surprising: I attended the O.J. Simpson trial. I owned a Harley-Davidson.
chancellor | N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University
Martin has led the largest U.S. historically Black university since 2009, with enrollment of nearly 13,000. No other school graduates more Black engineers. He led Winston-Salem State University from 2000-06 after previously working at A&T for 10 years as a professor and administrator.
president | Duke University
The former provost at the University of Pennsylvania came to North Carolina in 2017. Price, 63, signed a new five-year contract earlier this year. An expert on public opinion, he has master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University.Read More
Employer’s distinction: We’re one of America’s leading research universities. We are experimenting, innovating and making strategic adjustments that position us well for real leadership.
North Carolina’s challenge: Ensuring all residents benefit from technological innovation, job growth, social engagement, transportation and communications
Best advice: “You should marry Annette.”
Favorite passion: Walking my dogs, Scout and Cricket
Something surprising: I seriously considered a career in television.
president | High Point University
Born in Lebanon, Qubein, 72, spoke limited English when he came to the United States as a teen. He earned a bachelor’s degree from High Point University and an MBA from UNC Greensboro, After a successful business career, he took charge at High Point in 2005. Enrollment has since soared by more than 200% with dozens of new programs and 90 buildings. He signed a 10-year contract in 2019.Read More
Employer’s distinction: High Point University’s practical, principled approach is attracting students from 50 states and almost 40 countries. It fosters the life skills and leadership development needed in an ever-changing world. Within six months of earning their degree, 97% of our graduates begin careers or enter graduate school. We proudly say that we are a God, family and country school.
Proud family accomplishment: My family members are healthy and successful.
Favorite passions: Engaging with students and helping the region attract businesses
Person you admire: My mother, who had a fourth-grade education, blessed me with an ample supply of common sense.
Something surprising: I get up at 4 a.m. daily to pray, read trade journals and local newspapers, and think about the university’s next big thing.
president | Davidson College
She’s led the elite undergraduate school since 2011 as its first female president. She oversaw creation of an entrepreneurship center and shifted athletics to the Atlantic 10 Conference. Last year, the Ph.D. in European history from Princeton University apologized for the college’s complicity in supporting slavery.
president | Wake Technical Community College
A leader of the N.C. Community College System from 2008-15, Ralls, 56, left for a job in Virginia, then returned to the state’s largest two-year school in 2019. He has a doctorate in psychology from the University of Maryland.Read More
First job: Dishwasher
North Carolina’s challenge: Expanding economic opportunity
Best advice: “Always surround yourself with people smarter than you.” (Terry Sanford)
Proud family accomplishment: Being associated with the N.C. Community College System
Favorite recent book: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Something surprising: I’ve visited every North Carolina county.
chairman | UNC System Board of Governors
Ramsey, 58, succeeded Harry Smith as the board’s leader in 2019. He is president of Jarrett Bay Boatworks and a principal of Bluewater Yacht Sales. He is a former trustee at N.C. State University, where he and his wife, Tiffany, became the largest donors to the athletics endowment in 2016.Read More
Employer’s distinction: As chairman, I work toward increasing student success and lowering student debt, ensuring the system is efficient and delivering the finest education.
North Carolina’s challenge: Creating affordable education and workforce training
Best advice: My dad said you can accomplish anything if you are willing to work hard enough.
Favorite passion: Offshore fishing
CEO | EducationNC
Rash, 52, and her staff share information about the state’s education trends in an online publication. She is a UNC School of Law graduate and formerly led the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.Read More
First job: Kid-to-Kid columnist for The Charlotte Observer
North Carolina’s challenge: Overcoming the echo chambers that we build
Best advice: “1. Numbers are one measure; what’s the best measure of our new work? 2. What did I fail at this week? 3. Where are we making a difference? 4. Serious work should never be done by humorless people? 5. Accuracy above all. 6. No article should be started without reflecting on Pascal telling his friend: I would have written you a shorter letter if I had more time.” (Rolfe Neill, former Charlotte Observer publisher)
Person you admire: Donnell Cannon, North Carolina’s youngest principal
Decision you would change: I moved to the mountains at the pandemic’s start. I wish I did it sooner.
Favorite recent book: Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar by Alan Morinis
Favorite music: My son’s band, yesdude!, Fleetwood Mac, Mandolin Orange and Kate Rhudy
president | James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal
Robinson, 41, joined the higher education research group in 2007. She has a master’s degree and Ph.D. from UNC Chapel Hill. The Martin Center was established in 2003 with support from the Pope family.Read More
First job: Research intern at John Locke Foundation
Favorite passion: Cooking Italian food
Favorite recent book: The Assault on American Excellence by Anthony Kronman
chancellor | East Carolina University
With a University of Pennsylvania Ph.D., he started in March. The son of a Greenville pastor, Rogers was chief of staff at ECU before working at the American Council on Education for seven years. He also has degrees from Wake Forest University and UNC Chapel Hill.
JOSE “ZITO” SARTARELLI
chancellor | UNC Wilmington
The Brazil native with a Michigan State Ph.D. worked for Johnson & Johnson before becoming dean of West Virginia University’s business school in 2010. UNC hired Sartarelli, 71, to lead the Wilmington campus in 2015, and he’s overseen record enrollment and philanthropy.Read More
First job: Market researcher
Employer’s distinction: The quality of our faculty, students and programs
North Carolina’s challenge: Restoring economic activity post-pandemic and supporting a growing population
Favorite passions: Traveling, tennis and reading
Favorite recent books: Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher biographies
Favorite music: Rock ‘n’ roll, Brazilian and Italian
chairman, board of trustees | UNC Chapel Hill
The former Wake County manager has been the board leader since 2019. He rejoined the board in 2017 after serving from 1995-2003. He was a state senator from 2003 to 2012 and holds bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees from the Chapel Hill school.
THOMAS STITH III
president | N.C. Community College System
A former U.S. Small Business Administration district director, Stith was named system president in January. Prior jobs included serving as chief of staff to Gov. Pat McCrory. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from N.C. Central University.
A. HOPE WILLIAMS
president | North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities
With degrees from Duke and N.C. State universities and UNC Chapel Hill, she’s had her post since 1986.Read More
Employer’s distinction: We support 36 private nonprofit colleges and universities by seeking student scholarships, hosting professional development programs and collaborating with businesses.
North Carolina’s challenge: Helping students understand available financial aid
Favorite passion: Travel
chancellor | N.C. State University
The state’s largest university has been led since 2010 by the plant biologist and former Purdue University provost. It has more than 34,000 students and an annual budget of $1.4 billion. Woodson, 63, has a Ph.D. from Cornell University.Read More
First jobs: Paper delivery, floor sweeper and greenhouse worker
North Carolina’s challenge: Staying competitive globally for growth industries
Best advice: “You’ve got two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion. Listen more than you talk.” (my dad)
Favorite recent book: Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times by David S. Reynolds
Favorite music: Bluegrass and blues