Holden Thorp, Chancellor
Holden Thorp took office as Carolina’s 10th chancellor on July 1, 2008. He has invested three decades of his life at the University, starting as an undergraduate student who earned a bachelor of science degree with honors in 1986. Through his research, Thorp developed technology for electronic DNA chips and founded spin-off companies. He raised money for a science complex that has helped boost faculty research productivity, served as director of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Thorp announced in September 2012 that he planned to step down, effective June 30, 2013. He will become provost of Washington University in St. Louis on July 1 and hold an endowed professorship with appointments in chemistry and medicine.
A North Carolina native, Thorp grew up in a Fayetteville family steeped in UNC traditions dating to the 1800s. When he graduated from Terry Sanford High School, the only college on his application list was Carolina, where he earned a bachelor of science degree with honors in 1986.
Attending a world-class research university — where the same people conduct research and teach — allowed Thorp to work in chemistry labs with top faculty and inspired him to become a professor. He pursued that dream at the California Institute of Technology, where he earned a doctorate in chemistry in 1989, and at Yale University for postgraduate work. After teaching a year at NC State, he returned to UNC to teach chemistry in 1993. He was chair of the chemistry department and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences before becoming chancellor.
Carolina students are inspired to tackle the great problems facing the world.
Thorp is driven to be sure that UNC students today have the same opportunities that he had as an undergraduate. “Carolina students are inspired to tackle the great problems facing the world,” he says.
Thorp’s priorities include protecting Carolina’s legendary commitment to providing a high-quality education at an affordable price—core values that have kept the University and the chancellor in the spotlight as leaders during a national debate about college costs and the future of U.S. higher education. Thorp was among a dozen college presidents and higher education leaders invited to the White House with the president to discuss how campuses can become more affordable while producing more graduates.
The chancellor serves on the national Commission on Higher Education Attainment, which was created by the six presidentially based higher education associations to chart a course for improving college retention and attainment and, in turn, restoring the nation’s higher education preeminence. He is also on the national Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council.
Under Thorp’s leadership, UNC launched “Innovate@Carolina: Important Ideas for a Better World,” a roadmap for innovation in science, business, medicine, nonprofits and academia. He serves on the president’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which held its first national forum in Chapel Hill, and co-authored “Engines of Innovation — The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century,” a UNC Press book that makes the case for the pivotal role of research universities as agents of societal change. Royalties support innovation at UNC. He has published 130 scholarly articles on the electronic properties of DNA and RNA, holds 12 issued U.S. patents and co-founded Viamet Pharmaceuticals, which is developing drugs for prostate cancer and fungal infections. In 2012, Thorp was selected a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, a nonprofit organization that recognizes investigators who translate their research findings into inventions to benefit society.
An accomplished musician who plays jazz bass and keyboard, Thorp is married to Patti Worden Thorp, a Hope Mills native and UNC Greensboro graduate. Their children are John and Emma.