in the Future
A favorite professor put him on a course for success.
Thomas Ross ’ 75, jurist, reformer and lately a college
president, has come back to the public sector to guide
the UNC System in a tough time.
by David E. Brown ’ 75
When Bill Friday ’ 48 (LLB) was somewhere in the mid- dle of his 30 years as head of North Carolina’s university system, the idea that he might run for
governor was met with, “Why would he
want to take a step down?” The helm of
the 17 campuses is a powerful position that
demands an innovative thinker and problem solver who is a strong swimmer in the
state’s rough political waters.
The year 2011 never will be recalled as
the system’s halcyon days. Deep budget
cutting is bad enough up the hill from the
president’s office in Chapel Hill; smaller
institutions with little of Carolina’s ability
to raise private money and attract research
grants were much closer to real crisis when
Thomas Ross ’ 75 (JD) came to the job in
In the 35 years since he got out of law
school, Ross taught in UNC’s Institute of
Government, returned to his native
Greensboro to practice law, served as an
aide to an N.C. congressman and at age 33
was appointed the youngest Superior
Court judge in the state. He was on leave
from the bench to direct the N.C. Admin-
istrative Office of the Courts in 2000 when
he became director of the state’s most pres-
tigious charitable organization, the Z.
Smith Reynolds Foundation. Then for
three years he ran Davidson College, the
elite liberal arts school where he received
his undergraduate degree.