Nothing Could Be Finer

Carol L. Folt, interim president at Dartmouth College and an internationally recognized environmental scientist, will become the first woman to lead Carolina.

Throughout her 30-year career, Folt has been a staunch advocate for women in science and math professions and in academic leadership positions.

“It is deeply humbling to be the 11th chancellor of the first public University in America, with its history of excellence, its living profile of accomplishment and its immense promise,” Folt said after the UNC Board of Governors chose her on Friday as the 11th chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill.

She added, “I need to tell you I am still fun to have dinner with even though I study things like arsenic and rice.”

Folt, 61, succeeds Holden Thorp, who will step down June 30 after five years in the post. He will become provost of Washington University in St. Louis.

Watch video from the welcome reception held on Carolina’s campus in honor of Folt.

Busy weekend

During a beautiful spring weekend, Folt started immersing herself in campus life and learning about Carolina. She had dinner with University trustees, donors, volunteers and community leaders Friday evening.

On Saturday, Thorp showed Folt the chancellor’s office in South Building. Folt later gave interviews to journalists including the new editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel, met with the UNC General Alumni Association Board of Directors, saw the UNC Science Expo (part of the N.C. Science Festival) in McCorkle Place, toured Kenan Stadium with Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham during the annual spring football game and had dinner with the deans and Chancellor’s Cabinet.

On Sunday, she taped a video message to help recruit admitted first-year students considering an invitation to Honors Carolina and saw Quail Hill, the chancellor’s residence. Throughout the weekend, Folt chatted with students on campus, including several who are set to graduate in May. She also made calls to donors and elected officials.

Uniquely qualified

UNC President Tom Ross said Folt was uniquely qualified to lead Carolina, not only as the president of an acclaimed Ivy League institution who will now lead a “public Ivy” but also as an accomplished academic educated in public universities.

Ross said Folt is “the right person to lead UNC-Chapel Hill at this precise time in its long and storied history.”

She has the life experiences to manage and lead a large and complex institution with constrained resources and maintain a commitment to scholarship, research and creativity, he said.

Ross said he knew he had found the right person for the job when he met with Folt in his office and he asked her what had meant the most to her during her role as interim president at Dartmouth.

Clear passion and commitment

“Without hesitation, and with clear passion and commitment, and really love, her response was, ‘the students,’” Ross said.

Having been a leader of a university, Ross said, he understood that Folt could not have given him a better answer. And that was the moment he knew: There is nothing more important than knowing the leader of a campus cares about the students first, Ross said, “because that’s the business we are in.”

He said he was also impressed that when Folt agreed to serve as interim president of Dartmouth, she insisted that she not be considered as a permanent choice. She understood that people would then question every decision she made and, Ross said, she had the good judgment to make sure that didn’t happen.

Folt said there was another reason for her decision as well. “I felt strongly I wanted to get back to the public sphere,” she said. “That was another dream.”

At Carolina, that dream can now be fulfilled, she said.

After Folt was announced as Carolina’s next chancellor, she talked about the beautiful stories that members of the search committee shared with her about how public education changed their lives. The stories resonated with her because her public education changed her life as well.

It was during her first internship at a laboratory at the University of California in Santa Barbara, she said, that “I learned that I could create knowledge, not just learn it. From that moment, I’ve been completely hooked.

“It’s that direct connection between our talented and creative faculty and our bright and aspiring students that is unlike any other in its ability to inspire and to change lives.”

Graphic showing Folt's biographical information.

Please continue visiting to watch video, view photos and more about Carolina’s Chancellor-Elect. Follow UNC’s social media accounts, including @Carolina_News and Facebook.

About the University

UNC-Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a leader in American higher education and known around the world for innovative teaching, research and public service. Now in its third century, Carolina offers 78 bachelor’s, 112 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs. Last fall, the University enrolled more than 29,000 students who are taught by a 3,600-member faculty. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service priorities to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties.

Read more about Chancellor-Elect Folt and the Chancellor Search Committee.

Read Dartmouth College’s news release.

Published April 12, 2013. Updated April 14, 2013.