Controversial Chair of North Carolina System Quits

October 26, 2015

John Fennebresque, whose tenure as chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors was marked by unhappiness over his brusque and secretive style and capped by the controversial selection of Margaret Spellings as the system's president, resigned Monday, UNC announced.

Fennebresque, a lawyer who has been on the board since 2011 and became its chair last year, was seen as largely responsible for pushing out the previous president, Thomas W. Ross, for reasons that were never quite clear. He led the search for Ross's replacement, which ended Friday when the board selected Spellings, the former U.S. education secretary, as president. Many observers of the search, including some of Fennebresque's fellow board members and some Republican legislators who had backed his selection as chair, criticized the secrecy that enveloped the process and the fact that Spellings appeared to be the only candidate whom the board fully considered.

Some people questioned Spellings's selection because it resulted from a process widely viewed as flawed, with one going so far as to refer to it as “fruit from a poisonous tree.” The resignation of Fennebresque may quiet criticism of Spellings and give her presidency a better shot at succeeding.

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