Earning His Stripes
Holden Thorp ’ 86 heard many
different muses on his rapid rise
to the chancellorship.
by David E. Brown ’ 75
Holden Thorp walks into a men’s store.
The guy recognizes him — this is days before the
big announcement — and asks if he’s got any inside
on who the next chancellor will be.
“No,” he says, “but I need a jacket and 15
Carolina blue ties.”
The people on this campus who know him, and that’s a lot of
people, can see that moment. His face turns from deadpan to expressionless. It’s a funny line from somebody who understands serious science and frivolous theater in equal depth, but if it fails to get a laugh
— you have to be paying attention around Holden Thorp — it’s OK.
There’ll be another one soon.
In the secretive selection process for the 10th chancellor, Thorp is
the only one who let one paw out of the bag. A week before the
May meeting of the UNC System Board of Governors, a reporter
told him there were rumors. Since the deal was done by then, he said,
“I wanted to make sure what I put on the record was accurate and
enthusiastic.” So he was quoted: “I’m very interested. It’s the best job
in American higher education.”
“I can’t comment” would have sufficed. But not for Thorp. Not yet.