CHAPEL HILL, NC – The University of North Carolina Board of Governors today elected Peter Hans to serve as the president of the University of North Carolina System. President-elect Hans will assume this role effective August 1, 2020.
“Peter has long distinguished himself as a visionary leader who not only understands, but who is leading the charge for the future of higher education,” said UNC Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey, who also served as co-chair of the search committee. “We believe there is no one better suited to lead our university system into the future—even if the future may be very different than the one we all thought it would be six months ago. We are delighted to have Peter Hans as our new president and look forward to the transition process.”
President-elect Hans’ extensive experience in higher education policy gives him a comprehensive understanding of North Carolina’s vast higher education landscape.
Hans currently serves as president of the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS), a role he has held since May 1, 2018. He also served a six-year term on the State Board of Community Colleges, where he was vice chair.
The N.C. Senate elected Hans to serve on the UNC Board of Governors in 2003, 2007 and 2011, and he led the Board as chair from 2012 to 2014. In 2014, the UNC System and NCCCS signed the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement, streamlining the transfer of credits for students, under then-Chair Hans’ leadership. From 2016 to 2018, he advised then-UNC System President Margaret Spellings on issues related to technology, health care, strategic planning and K-12 education.
As president of the NCCCS, Hans oversees 58 colleges across North Carolina and about 700,000 students, which is the third-largest system of higher education in the United States.
“The search committee and the Board both worked tirelessly during this process to find just the right person to lead our 17 institutions,” said Wendy Murphy, vice chair of the UNC Board of Governors and co-chair of the search committee. “I am proud that this person is Peter Hans, whose expansive knowledge of higher education in North Carolina and history of public service to this state made him stand out as the ideal candidate.”
In 2014, UNC Wilmington honored Hans with its prestigious Razor Walker Service Award for his work to improve collaboration between the community college and university systems.
“Peter Hans passionately believes that North Carolina’s future depends on education, and he has a long track record of uniting people and institutions in pursuit of shared goals,” said Dr. Bill Roper, interim president of the UNC System. “I am confident that, with today’s decision, great things are ahead for the UNC System and for our great state.”
President-elect Hans currently serves as the board vice-chair of myFutureNC, a bipartisan commission organized to raise the state’s educational attainment level. In 2019, the myFutureNC Commission issued a goal for two million North Carolinians to have a degree or credential beyond high school by 2030.
“Public education has been the cornerstone of my life and helped shape my years of public service,” said President-elect Hans. “My goal is to make higher education more affordable for more North Carolinians so we can extend opportunity to all of her citizens.”
President-elect Hans succeeds Margaret Spellings, who served as president of the UNC System from March 1, 2016, until March 1, 2019. Dr. Bill Roper has served as interim president since January 2019.
“Congratulations to my dear friend and colleague Peter Hans, who has committed his career on the state and national levels to advancing and enriching the lives of all North Carolinians,” said Margaret Spellings, president emeritus of the UNC System. “Whether as a trusted advisor to me at the UNC System or as President of the NC Community Colleges, Peter has worked tirelessly to improve student achievement, enhance educational access, and ensure college affordability for all students. I wish Peter the greatest success as he takes the helm of the System during this critical time.”
Hans was elected following a year-long national search, which was led by the UNC System Presidential Search Committee. On June 21, 2019, the Board of Governors passed a resolution establishing the committee and named Kim Strach as director of the search.
“I am delighted that the UNC Board of Governors has elected Peter Hans to serve as the president of the University of North Carolina,” said Erskine B. Bowles, president emeritus of the UNC System. “Peter served as vice chairman of the UNC Board of Governors during my tenure as UNC President. I’ve seen firsthand the real love Peter has for our state and our university, as well as the deep appreciation he has of the critically important role that the University’s 17 campuses play in the future of North Carolina and our people. Peter has the people skills, the experience and the leadership strengths needed to push the university forward in a nonpartisan manner, to meet the challenges and opportunities we face today and will face in the future. I compliment the Board on its selection of this good man.”
Under President Hans’ leadership, the NCCCS has thrived. In the Fall of 2019, enrollment climbed 4.4 percent across the NCCCS—the first increase in nearly a decade. Fifty-three of the 58 community colleges reported increases. Working hand in hand with the business community’s support, community colleges received state funding for short-term workforce training in high-demand fields, a much-needed information technology upgrade, and an expansion of the career coach program in high schools.
“The university system is very fortunate to have Peter Hans as its next president,” said Bill McBrayer, vice chair of the State Board of Community Colleges. “He is a strategic, visionary and compassionate leader who has guided our community colleges with great success. We wish him the best in his new role, and we look forward to continued partnerships with the UNC System.”
Hans grew up in Southport on the coast and Hendersonville in the mountains. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies from Harvard University.
Over the course of his career in public service, Hans has earned a reputation for working across the aisle to build consensus. He served as senior policy advisor to U.S. Senator Lauch Faircloth (1995-1999), then-U.S. Representative (now U.S. Senator) Richard Burr (1999-2001), and U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole (2001-2002).
Later, Hans and former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker built a government relations practice at a series of regional law firms, most recently Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. The team has counseled private-sector companies on public affairs, including clients in the health care, technology, retail and manufacturing sectors.