John Fennebresque has resigned his seat on the UNC Board of Governors, effectively immediately. An attorney from Charlotte, Fennebresque had served as Board Chair since 2014.
Last year, he oversaw a controversial review of UNC academic centers that some called politically motivated. It eventually led to the closing of the UNC-Chapel Hill Law School’s Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, among others.
Earlier this year, Fennebresque asked President Tom Ross to step down. That began a search process that eventually drew intense criticism from fellow Republicans on the Board and in the General Assembly. Several Board members, including Greensboro developer Marty Kotis and former state legislator Thom Goolsby, called for him to resign.
The UNC president search ended Friday with the hiring of Margaret Spellings. After the final unanimous vote, Fennebresque was clearly emotional.
“I have tears in my eyes right now,” he said during brief remarks. “I’m so excited and so relieved that we have hired this special person that Margaret Spellings is.”
In a release announcing his resignation, Fennebresque called it and “honor and a privilege” to serve on the Board of Governors.
“With the search completed, I believe now is the time for a fresh start for our University system and its 17 campuses, as well as for this Board of Governors,” he said.
In the same release, fellow Board members – and members of the presidential search committee - praised Fennebresque.
“Throughout the search process, John supported us so that we could do our best work,” said Ann Goodnight. “Empowering others to lead is an important characteristic of a true leader, and I thank John for it.”
Ross, who will leave his post on Janurary 1, 2016, said Fennebresque served the UNC system “with great dedication and commitment.”
“While John Fennebresque and I may have had our differences at times, he truly loves the University of North Carolina and has been a tireless, passionate advocate for it,” Ross said, in a statement.
Lou Bisette, Jr. will assume the chairmanship until the Board can elect a new leader. It meets in regular session this Friday.