New Professorship Honors Governor Holshouser

More than 150 friends and three former governors gathered on December 13, 2012, at the School of Government to celebrate the creation of the James E. Holshouser Jr. Distinguished Professorship, which honors Holshouser’s lifelong dedication to fair and effective government.

Shown in photo: Former Gov. Holshouser (second from left) with  Governors James B. Hunt and James G. Martin with Holshouser Professorship campaign chair George W. Little (right)

The School of Government provides education, advising, publications, and research that help North Carolina’s state and local government officials better perform the duties of public office.  In the tradition of Governor Holshouser, the endowed chair will enable the school to seek and retain faculty who will bring intelligence, creativity, and deep commitment to serving North Carolina’s public officials.

In a letter of congratulations read at the event, Governor-elect Pat McCrory said of Holshouser, “Your commitment and devotion to effective state and local government and the economic improvement of our state serves as a shining example to all North Carolinians. Personally, you have taught me that we have a responsibility to identify, educate and inspire the next generation of leaders for our state and the [new professorship] will provide crucial support to those working to shape future leaders .”

In his remarks, Dean Mike Smith commented, “It is fitting that a professorship honoring Holshouser is at the School of Government because not only was he governor, but also was a working county attorney for many years and knows exactly what our faculty members do and how they do it.

“There is not a person in North Carolina who is respected more for his commitment to the state,” said Smith.  “Having the Holshouser name on this professorship sets the bar high and over the years it will inspire people who know his work and who come to know what he has represented to the state. It will inspire us to continue to do our work in along that same path, helping people in fair, nonpartisan ways that are practical for public officials in the state.“

George Little of Southern Pines chaired the committee that raised funds for the endowment. After greetings from UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp and UNC President Tom Ross, speakers at the event also included Brad Wilson, president of BlueCross Blue Shield North Carolina, and Art Pope, chair of the John William Pope Foundation. Speakers praised Holshouser’s wisdom and his humor and warmth. Longtime friend and associate Phil Kirk, speaking last, concluded with a heartfelt and direct: “Thank you for being you.”

In his response, Holshouser expressed appreciation to all who have participated in the “two-way street” of leadership.  He commended Smith, dean of the School of Government, and his predecessors, the four directors of the Institute of Government, whom he called “great public servants in every case.”

“I am glad to have my name associated with this institution,” he continued, “because I know how much they do across North Carolina that keeps us from getting into the kind of trouble that you see in other states that don’t have the good fortune to have an institution like this one.”

The audience gave Governor Holshouser two standing ovations.

In 1972, Holshouser became one of the state’s youngest governors and the first Republican elected in the 20th century.  As governor, he was widely, and highly, regarded for a number of economic improvements and education initiatives including a major restructuring of the state’s system of higher education and the enrollment of children statewide in kindergarten as their first year of public schooling. In his administration, women and minorities found expanded opportunities to participate in high-level positions; rural health care improved; foreign trade increased; and the state’s transportation system, particularly its highways, became significantly better. An additional hallmark of his term of office was his care and concern for the state’s environment through initiatives to protect the coast, save energy, add to and improve the state park system, and create the N.C. Zoological Park.

As a member emeritus of the UNC Board of Governors for over 30 years, he has brought his wisdom and clear thinking to bear on many important issues that affect higher education in North Carolina.

The new professorship will receive matching funds from the State Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1985. Gifts to the Holshouser Distinguished Professorship can be made online at