UNC-Chapel Hill names former state budget director as interim chancellor

Dec 15, 2023, 10:44 AM

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill named a former state budget director who served under former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory as its interim chancellor Friday.

Lee Roberts will temporarily take over for Kevin Guskiewicz, who was announced last week as the next president of Michigan State University. Roberts, a finance executive, is a graduate of rival Duke University and will start in January, according to a UNC-Chapel Hill news release.

Amid complaints from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper that “hard right” legislative appointees to the university’s Board of Governors are damaging the institution’s reputation, Roberts said he plans to do the “nonpartisan job” in a “nonpartisan way.”

“To be effective in this role, you need to be able to work with Republicans and Democrats and independents and everybody else. That’s what I’ve done in my past roles,” he said in the news release.

UNC recently drew national attention when a high-profile tenure fight culminated in Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah Jones’ departure from her acclaimed post as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. The New York Times Magazine correspondent — whose “1619 Project” earned awards for centering slavery in American history — said her tenure application was stalled by powerful donors and conservatives concerned about her work.

Roberts pledged to “do no harm” and oversee a smooth transition for whoever becomes the permanent successor. He called UNC-Chapel Hill the most important institution in the state and touted a $2 billion initiative to mostly repair higher education infrastructure as the most important accomplishment from his time in government.

Roberts is the founder of a Raleigh-based investment firm and recently taught budgeting at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.


Pollard is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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UNC-Chapel Hill names former state budget director as interim chancellor