James Moeser, Chancellor Emeritus 2000-2008
Under the leadership of Dr. James Moeser, its ninth chancellor, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill embraced an ambitious vision for the future — to be America’s leading public university.
After arriving in 2000, Moeser
- championed a program to provide a Carolina education debt-free to deserving low-income students.
- led an effort to strengthen the University’s commitment to serving North Carolina.
- oversaw the most successful private fund-raising campaign in University history and an unprecedented physical transformation of the main campus; and
- managed growth in faculty research funding, adoption of an academic plan, enhancements to undergraduate education and extensive globalization efforts.
During his annual State of the University speech in September 2007, Moeser announced his decision to relinquish the chancellor’s post on June 30, 2008, the end of the academic and fiscal year and, after a year’s research leave, return to the Carolina faculty.In 2003, Moeser and Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid, worried that North Carolina’s brightest high school students from low-income families believed they could not afford UNC. The University responded with the Carolina Covenant, which promises the opportunity to earn a UNC diploma debt-free. With that launch, a first for a major public university, Carolina led a movement in American higher education. Many similar initiatives have begun at other public and private campuses as well as two states including North Carolina. In May 2008, the first Carolina Covenant Scholars graduated.
Moeser received the 2007 American Council on Education’s Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award, a lifetime achievement honor for major contributions to the advancement of diversity in higher education. He served on the College Board’s Commission on Access, Admissions and Success in Higher Education, which brings together leaders from higher education and K-12 schools to focus on academic preparation, admissions and financial aid.
The University’s ties to North Carolina are so important that Moeser began an effort in 2004 to strengthen connections between Carolina and the state. Through his “Carolina Connects” initiative, Moeser showcased how the University serves the state’s people and communities.
During Moeser’s tenure, the Carolina First Campaign became the most successful fund-raising effort in University history, raising $2.38 billion to finish as the fifth largest completed campaign in U.S. higher education and the largest completed drive at a university in the South. The campaign raised $419 million for faculty, including 208 endowed professorships; $345 million for students, including 577 scholarships and 196 fellowships; $579 million for research; $664 million for strategic initiatives; and $185 million for facilities. Carolina First also helped double the University’s total endowment to more than $2 billion.
The campaign’s success more than made good on Moeser’s 2000 pledge to triple the investment North Carolinians would make by approving the Higher Education Bond Referendum. Voters overwhelmingly supported the referendum, which brought $515 million to Carolina for new buildings and renovations. The University invested its own funds from sources including gifts and faculty research grants to create one of the nation’s largest campus building programs.
Faculty research funding also grew. Total research grants and contracts rose by almost 3 percent in fiscal 2007 to exceed $610 million – more than double the amount from a decade ago. The research is helping cure diseases, bring innovation to industry and spin off businesses that create new jobs for North Carolinians. Moeser challenged the campus to reach $1 billion in sponsored research by 2015.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences selected Moeser for membership in 2007. He served on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Security Higher Education Advisory Board. The NCAA selected him to serve on its Presidential Task Force on the Future of Division I Intercollegiate Athletics and the fiscal responsibility subcommittee. In 2009, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Duke University.
Moeser came to UNC after four years as chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. His career began in 1966 at the University of Kansas, where he was a music faculty member and later served as dean of the School of Fine Arts for 11 years. In 1986 he joined The Pennsylvania State University as dean of the College of Arts and Architecture and executive director of University Arts Services. He was vice president for academic affairs and provost of the University of South Carolina.
A native of Colorado City, Texas, and a Fulbright Scholar, he earned two degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and a doctorate from the University of Michigan.
Moeser is married to Dr. Susan Dickerson Moeser, a fellow concert organist and music lecturer and University organist at Carolina. His children are a son, Chris, and a daughter, Carter.