After a decade-and-a-half of stable leadership — a situation almost unheard of within the greater University of North Carolina system —Western Carolina University is about to embark on a whirlwind of change.
In addition to the replacement of Chancellor John Bardo by David Belcher of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, who starts July 1, a bevy of top positions at the university are filled, for now, only on an interim basis. This includes the provost (WCU’s second in command) and the university’s vice chancellor of administration and finance.
Also coming open? Six of the 13 members of the WCU Board of Trustees are up for appointment or reappointment. This includes Chairman Steve Warren and Vice Chairman Charles Worley, who have served two- and four-year terms respectively on the board, meaning they cannot be reappointed as trustees.
The governor gets four appointments; the UNC Board of Governors appoints eight of the trustees, plus the president of the student government is automatically placed on the board.
This board of trustees and Bardo met for the final time last week. In an emotional meeting that left Warren and Bardo, at times, choking back tears, the outgoing chancellor said he truly believes WCU’s best days are before it.
“These 16 years (as chancellor) represents a quarter of my life,” Bardo said. “This was about trying to make a difference in lives of people.”
The average tenure of a UNC chancellor is four-and-a-half years.
Warren spoke of Bardo’s “incredible vision” that transformed “the spirit of the campus.”
“Everything we ever wanted for this university is now within our reach — everything,” Warren said.
To honor Bardo, the board of trustees voted to name the university’s Fine and Performing Arts Center after the retiring chancellor.
In a related matter, Faculty Senate Chairman Erin McNelis told the board of trustees that this faculty leadership group would consider a resolution for more openness when it comes to a chancellor search.
This resolution would seek for the finalists’ names to be made public, so that the final selection would become “an open process,” she said. This is routinely done in many states, but North Carolina allows universities to opt to keep chancellors’ searches secret.