CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp is leaving his undergraduate alma mater to become the chief academic officer of Washington University in St. Louis.
Thorp, who led the country's oldest public university for four years, said in an email Monday to the university community that he'll step down at the end of the academic year in June for a new job that will allow him to teach and do research while serving as the school's provost. Thorp, 48, announced in September that he would be leaving after two years of scandals involving academic fraud, improper travel spending by fundraisers, and special treatment for athletes.
"For more than two years, there is no question that we have faced some of the most difficult issues to come before the university in decades," Thorp said in a statement. "We have met those challenges head on and put much-needed reforms in place. It's been painful, but we've become a better university as a result."
Thorp listed his accomplishments as the university breaking into the country's top 10 in federal funding for research and development, a 43 percent increase in applications for undergraduate admissions, and promoting the school as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship.
He will succeed Edward Macias, the chief academic officer of Washington University for 25 years. Chancellor Mark Wrighton has headed the private, liberal arts school for 17 years and is a former chemistry professor like Thorp. Thorp said he was recruited for the job by a search firm hired by Washington.
"Holden Thorp is one of America's most highly respected leaders in higher education," Wrighton said. "He is a great scientist with an excellent track record of achievement and a reputation for his commitment to student success, academic excellence and professional integrity. He is an entrepreneur who has founded two companies and understands the importance of innovation and technology transfer."
Thorp's research as a chemist has led to him publishing 130 scholarly articles on the electronic properties of DNA and RNA. He holds 12 U.S. patents.
Since mid-2010, UNC-Chapel Hill has struggled through an NCAA investigation of football players receiving improper benefits and academic misconduct that led to the firing of football coach Butch Davis. Investigations found courses going back to 1997 in UNC-Chapel Hill's Department of African and Afro-American Studies in which instructors hadn't taught, grades were changed and grade reports were faked. Thorp also saw the resignation of two fundraising administrators, including the mother of former Tar Heels basketball star Tyler Hansbrough.
Thorp's comments, issued by Washington University, addressed his thoughts on innovation, collaboration across research fields, and intercollegiate sports. Washington University's teams play in the NCAA's Division III, in contrast to UNC-Chapel Hill, which plays at the most competitive level.
"The role of athletics is important at a place like Carolina and it's also important at a place like Washington University. At Carolina we faced a number of challenges but I think we did a good job of addressing them and positioning Carolina to succeed in the future. The great intercollegiate athletics programs of the nation will continue to be important in the future," Thorp said.