Spellings Inaugurated as University of North Carolina’s 18th President
Margaret Spellings was inaugurated as the 18th president of the University of North Carolina on October 13 during a music-filled ceremony on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Participants included state and educational leaders, faculty, staff, students, and other delegates from across the state and nation.
In her inaugural address—delivered in TED Talk style—Spellings laid out her vision for what higher education in North Carolina can and should be. In drafting our state’s first constitution in 1776, North Carolina’s founders had declared that, “All useful learning shall be duly encouraged in one or more Universities.” That commitment laid the foundation for the evolution of the 17-campus UNC system. Spellings called on North Carolina to redefine “all useful learning” for a new era—to make some form of higher education our higher expectation for all North Carolina’s people.
“It’s time to raise our expectations once again,” said Spellings. “Higher education is the next frontier — a new civil right. Every child must be able to reach beyond high school — that has to become our expectation, our promise for a rising generation. That may mean a four-year degree, a master's or a doctorate; it could mean an associate degree or a professional credential.”
A better educated state, she said, would lead to stronger public life, a more resilient North Carolina economy, and greater opportunity for students and families.
“My job as President,” she explained, “is to help define success — what does it mean to be accessible, affordable and efficient, to have excellent and diverse institutions, and to make a real impact on the economy and wellbeing of North Carolina? How do we define student success and hold ourselves accountable for achieving it?”
In taking the oath of office, administered by NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin, Spellings placed her hand on the Durant Family Bible, printed in 1599 and believed to be the oldest book with a known connection to a North Carolina family. An opening film produced by the UNC School of the Arts celebrated UNC’s 17 campuses and their collective commitment to access, affordability, and student success. The program also included performances by the North Carolina Central University Jazz Ensemble, featuring Branford Marsalis, and a 68-member combined choral ensemble comprised of students from all 17 UNC system campuses.
UNC-TV provided a live web stream of the program, now archived on the UNC system website at www.northcarolina.edu, and rebroadcast the show later that evening.
Spellings became president of the UNC system on March 1 of this year. Nationally known as an education thought leader and public policy expert, she previously served as president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas; U.S. Secretary of Education; and White House Domestic Policy Advisor for President George W. Bush. She also has served as president and CEO of Margaret Spellings & Company, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and as senior advisor to then-Governor George W. Bush of Texas. She is a graduate of the University of Houston.