Carol Folt, the interim president of Dartmouth College, will be the next chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, three sources close to the search said.
Folt, 61, would be the first woman to lead the campus in Chapel Hill, where the 29,000-member student body is 58 percent female. She will succeed Holden Thorp, who is stepping down by July 1 to become provost at Washington University in St. Louis.
The UNC board will meet Friday afternoon in Chapel Hill to elect the new leader. A search committee worked for months to narrow a list of candidates to three finalists for UNC President Tom Ross, who will recommend his choice to the board.
Ross and other university leaders were tight-lipped about the candidate Thursday at a board meeting at UNC Pembroke. Without revealing the next chancellor’s identity, they talked glowingly about the new leader.
Ross said the search process had brought forth a deep and impressive pool of candidates and UNC-CH trustees said any of the three finalists would have been an outstanding leader for the university.
About his pick, he said, “I’m excited about it, and hopefully the board will support that.”
UNC-CH Trustee Chairman Wade Hargrove described the candidate as “excellent.”
Thorp said he is thrilled with the choice and had been pleased that so many top-notch leaders had been in the running.
“I’m happy for Carolina, and I’m happy to be here to help with the transition,” Thorp said. “This is a great day for Carolina, and I am really happy for everybody now.”
The choice of a woman from the Ivy League may provide a needed jolt to a campus that for more than two years has been mired in controversy involving athletics, fund-raising, academic fraud and sexual assault.
Career at Dartmouth
An environmental scientist, Folt has spent the bulk of her career as a professor and administrator at Dartmouth, a private college in Hanover, N.H.
She has been in the president’s job for only nine months. Before that, she had been Dartmouth’s provost – its chief academic officer – for three years. She became interim president last July when the former president, Jim Yong Kim, left Dartmouth to head the World Bank.
Dartmouth recently announced that University of Michigan provost Philip Hanlon would become the college’s next president on July 1. Media reports said Folt had told the Dartmouth board she would not be a candidate for the permanent job.
Active in the science community, Folt serves on federal scientific review panels and has held elective office in scientific societies. Her research focuses on the effects of mercury and other metals on aquatic life and human health.
She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a doctorate from the University of California, Davis. She did postdoctoral study at W.K. Kellogg Biological Station of Michigan State University.
Folt arrived at Dartmouth in 1983 as a faculty member in the department of biological sciences, where she now holds an endowed professorship. She helped lead the college’s Superfund Basic Research Program and held a number of administrative positions in the last decade.
She was dean of Arts & Sciences, associate dean for interdisciplinary programs and dean of graduate students.
Mentor for students
The winner of a teaching award in 1991, Folt has mentored more than 100 undergraduates and graduate students, according to Dartmouth’s website. She was active in a Dartmouth project to reverse the underrepresentation of women in science, math and engineering.
It appears Folt does not have much experience with intercollegiate athletics, which is likely to be important as UNC-CH tries to recover from athletic and academic scandals that have dealt a blow to the university’s reputation.
Dartmouth, with 6,100 students, is not a hotbed of big-time athletics, though it does have 34 athletic teams and competes in the NCAA’s Division I. The football team, however, competes at a lower level, formerly Division I-AA. The college also fields sports that are not part of the NCAA, including equestrian, sailing and squash.
During her time as provost, she has led a strategic plan following a period of budget cuts.
In 2010, Kim praised Folt’s skills when he appointed her provost.
“Carol is one of the most creative thinkers I’ve ever met, in terms of understanding how to take a complex organization like a college or a university and make it work much better,” Kim told the Valley News in White River Junction, Vt. “She’s both a great scholar and a visionary, creative administrator.”
Folt is married to David Peart, a professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth. They have two children.
In December, when Dartmouth’s next president was named, Folt told the student newspaper that she relished her role, and liked to balance her administrative duties by spending time with students.
“I personally am very fortunate to have work that I absolutely love,” Folt told The Dartmouth newspaper. “It energizes me.”
News researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.