Chancellor-Elect Folt’s Acceptance Remarks to the UNC Board of Governors

Video Transcript

Peter Hans, chair of the UNC Board of Governors: Congratulations, Chancellor-Elect Folt.

[Applause]

Chancellor-Elect Carol Folt: Thank you. Wow, thank you everyone. I need to tell you that I still am fun to have dinner with, even though I study things like arsenic and rice. I just have to say I’m so deeply honored to have the opportunity and the privilege to lead the oldest and the finest public university in America, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

I’m going to start by thanking some people who aren’t here right now. I’m going to thank in advance the students and the faculty and the staff, and indeed the wonderful State of North Carolina for embracing me. I look forward to working with you.

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. I’d like to thank the Board of Governors. I’m so grateful for your support and your leadership of the outstanding UNC system – clearly your belief in its ability to really meet the needs and the dreams of the state for access to public education and its ability to drive economic prosperity, and to continue North Carolina’s more than 200 years of national leadership in educational innovation.

I’d like to thank President Ross. Tom, you inspire me with your passion for UNC and its rich traditions, your love of the students and the diverse communities here, and I really do share your conviction about its place at the heart of North Carolina’s past and its future. Thank you so much for your confidence in me, and I really do look forward to being part of your team.

I’d like to thank Wade Hargrove, our chair of the Chancellor Search Committee and the Board of Trustees. From the very moment I walked in the door from my very first meeting, you extended me a very gracious and warm Carolina welcome, and I have only had that from every single person I’ve met so far. Thank you.

And to the search committee, you spoke to me from your hearts. I really believed what you said when you talked about the importance of a public for the people. You shared your beliefs about the importance of the future of the UNC system, of Carolina, for the success of the State of North Carolina. And you each described in so many beautiful stories how your own education has changed your lives. Every single time we met, more ideas – and some pretty hard questions – just continued to draw me in, and I really look forward to working with you, as well.

Fellow chancellors, some of whom I’ve met, I’m really proud to join your ranks and to work with you, to implement the new strategic plan, and also to build increasing ties of collaboration and opportunity.

Chancellor Thorp – Holden – thank you so much already for your openness and your willingness to help me as I move into this role. I mean, really, your personal legacy of leadership, together with the outstanding achievements of your faculty, staff and students are greatly admired across the country. I think that you’ve created a very powerful momentum that really will provide us all the impetus we need to build an even stronger Carolina in the coming years. Thank you. I will do everything I can to ensure Carolina’s proud tradition and commitment to leadership.

And, of course, I want to thank my family, my wonderful husband, David, who’s here with me, and you heard about our son, Noah, and our daughter, Tessa. You know, they’re always the ones that are there for you. They inspire me, they teach me, they make me laugh, they’re always with me.

I do understand the legacy of public education. As you heard, I’m very proud of my own history at three great public universities. I grew up in Akron, Ohio, as the middle of five kids in a loving, second-generation Albanian immigrant family. When my grandparents arrived at Ellis Island many, many years ago, I don’t think that they might have been imagining their granddaughter in this incredible moment today, but, you know, I think they would’ve believed that it’s possible. That was exactly why they came to America.

And I know how much public education can change lives, because it certainly changed my life. When I landed my first internship in a laboratory at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I was so excited. And it was there that I actually found out that I could create knowledge, not just learn it. I could create it. And from that moment, I’ve been completely hooked.

It’s the direct connection between our talented and creative faculty, and our bright and aspiring students that is unlike any other in its ability to aspire, inspire and to change lives. And I know from direct experience that Carolina has the same powerful influence on countless generations of students. Carolina’s not only known as one of the world’s great universities, I’ve also learned how it’s known as a place where students matter, it’s known where staff matter, and it’s known as a place where community counts.

Walking across this beautiful campus with Student Body President Will Leimenstoll – and, by the way, always have a student take you across the campus – while we went past the Old Well, we went down Polk Place, we went through the Pit, David and I just felt the spirit of the place.

You know, as longtime faculty, we already did know quite a lot about the academic strength and the reputation of Carolina, but we had not experienced Tar Heel Fever, and we were here on the very day of the Carolina-Duke basketball game. We actually went to the Dean Dome with [Trustee] Barbara Hyde, and I can’t say we actually had much of a chance to talk during that game, because the noise and the excitement was wild, but we now really get the importance of Carolina Blue – definitely get that – and we did immediately become Tar Heels.

So, I am so looking forward to working and really to learning from all of you. I am sure that we’re going to work together to provide an education equal to any education in the world. I’m sure that we’re going to work together to make sure that our students don’t simply learn what we know, but they learn how to create what will be and that will be used by the State of North Carolina, the nation and indeed the world for the future.

I know that we’re going to work together to define the frontiers of knowledge and to put that knowledge directly into practice, to use it to solve difficult problems and to reach for the stars. You know, I do love working with people. I always try to empower people, to lead a team that feels positive about its work, to hold the highest standards, and to be inspired by people’s greatest aspirations.

Working with Dartmouth College and its wonderful extended community has been so productive and fulfilling for me, and I have learned so much being there. Although on the surface, Dartmouth and Carolina might seem very different, what they have at the core, what really makes both of them so vibrant, I believe, is very similar. From the strength of our amazing traditions, to the commitment and the loyalty of our alumni and our communities, and to our very deep roots in the history, the educational history of our nation, I think we both have been striving for excellence for our students to make sure our students, our faculty and our communities become leaders in all aspects of their lives.

So we know that this is a challenging moment for higher education in America, but I absolutely know that we’re going to meet those challenges. And I believe that we’re going to work together to fulfill the promise of this absolutely great University and wonderful system. Thank you so much for the privilege of joining you. Thank you.