Photo Courtesy of Campus Weekly
Franklin D. Gilliam Jr. was working on about 90 minutes of sleep Friday after taking a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Charlotteon Thursday night.
His knees ached, a souvenir from his days of playing college football on artificial turf.
But Gilliam seemed thrilled to be in Greensboro, and the UNCG community seemed just as excited to meet its dynamic new leader.
The UNC Board of Governors on Friday named Gilliam, the dean of the public affairs school at the University of California, Los Angeles as UNCG’s 11th chancellor.
Gilliam, 60, will succeed Linda Brady, who stepped down in March after heart surgery. She had announced in October that she planned to retire this summer.
Gilliam’s annual salary will be $375,000 — about $56,000 more than Brady’s.
Gilliam is the first African American chancellor at UNCG. He is also the first male chancellor of the former Woman’s College since William Moran retired in 1994.
In a statement, UNC system President Tom Ross said Gilliam fostered collaboration, thought strategically, solved problems creatively and showed an entrepre- neurial spirit in nearly 30 years at UCLA as a political science professor, a center director, a university administrator and a dean.
“UNC-Greensboro is fortunate to gain a leader with this wealth of talent, passion and commitment,” said Ross, who missed Friday’s meeting because he had shoulder surgery earlier this week.
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement on the university’s website that “Frank has had a profound impact on our campus as well as communities throughout Los Angeles and across the nation. I am proud to have him as a colleague and am confident he will enjoy continued success leading the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.” As a scholar, Gilliam, a political scientist, focused his research on electoral politics, racial and ethnic politics and how communication shapes public policy.
As a dean, Gilliam helped UCLA secure a $50 million gift in 2011 to rename the school the Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Gilliam’s passion is community engagement — how to get the university and its faculty to build relationships and work with the world outside the university campus.
For the past two years he led UCLA’s efforts to work with the broader Los Angeles community.
As dean, his school tackled issues that included child welfare, health care reform and transportation.
Gilliam said it’s too early to say what exactly he will do as chancellor, but he is encouraged by what he has seen so far.
He said UNCG has an accomplished faculty and many strong academic programs.
The university is a good value for students and their families. Enrollment is rising and online programs are strong. Like at UCLA, there’s a lot of innovation and civic engagement.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that UNCG is wellpositioned for continued success,” Gilliam said.
“We have to pay homage to the rich legacy of this university. … We also have to look forward. We have to look for the future and see how we can collectively — all of us — work toward a better tomorrow,” he said.
UNCG trustees had hoped the new chancellor would start July 1, but Gilliam won’t come on board until Sept. 8. He said UCLA wanted to ensure a smooth transition for his successor, who has not yet been hired.
Acting Chancellor Dana Dunn will remain in charge until Gilliam arrives.
“I wanted to be here by the start of the school year, but it’s almost June,” Gilliam said. “I’ve been in L.A. for 29 years. It might take me a day or two to figure out how to get out of there.” Gilliam’s whirlwind day started at the UNC system office in Chapel Hill, where he was formerly introduced as chancellor and a busload of UNCG students and employees cheered the pick. After the announcement, Gilliam posed for a picture with several students who held a banner that read “Welcome to UNCG.” Friday afternoon, UNCG supporters cheered him as he walked up the steps to the Alumni House and they packed the Virginia Dare Room to hear him speak for about 10 minutes.
At the UNCG event, Gilliam used a version of the remarks he gave to the Board of Governors in Chapel Hill earlier.
But he won over the audience when he deviated from the script just a bit.
He told the UNCG crowd that the transition to North Carolina shouldn’t be too bad.
After 29 years with the University of California system, which is organized much like the UNC system, “I understand what it’s like to have what you all call ‘General Administration.’” A few in the crowd chuckled at the reference to the UNC system’s central office.
Gilliam continued: “It’s what we call in the University of California ‘the black hole.’” The crowd erupted.
“I can say that now that I’m not in Chapel Hill!” he said.
In an interview late Friday, Gilliam said he has been looking for the past three or four years at becoming a college president.
He turned down one presidency, but he declined to name the school.
Gilliam said he heard about the UNCG job from an old friend who’s on the faculty at UNCG. He didn’t identify the professor, but said she was a year ahead of him at the former Lincoln Senior High in Bloomington, Minn. The two reconnected when the professor was visiting Los Angeles several months ago, and the professor had mentioned that the current chancellor had recently announced her retirement.
“We thought we were at a stage in our lives to try something different before it got too late to do something different,” Gilliam said.
“L.A.’s a wonderful city but it can grind you down a little bit. We’re at a point in our lives that having a little bit different pace of life and culture is appealing to us.” Gilliam had never seen the UNCG campus until he came to Winston-Salem for the semifinalist interview in April. A search committee member planned to drive Gilliam and wife Jacquie around campus. The Gilliams asked instead to be dropped off.
In that brief time incognito, Gilliam said he was surprised to meet students not just from the Triad but from across the country.
He was also surprised to see that UNCG’s residence halls were close to academic buildings, not on the edge of campus like they are at many universities.
Gilliam, who called Greensboro “a warm and lovely city,” said his family thought it would be a good fit for them.
So why leave L.A. for Greensboro? “I’ve been asked that question a number of times, and I don’t think that’s the right question,” he said.
“The right question is, is Greensboro ready for us?”
Reposted from News & Record