Top 10 stories of 2012: No. 2
He had been at the helm for five years. He was almost 66 years of age.
Still, Charlie Nelms’ decision at the end of July to step down as chancellor of N.C. Central University stunned the campus.
“A real surprise,” noted Dwight Perry, the chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees. “There had been no indication before [that he wanted to retire].”
Particularly stunning was the timing of the announcement — Nelms would be leaving his post just a few weeks before the beginning of fall classes — and the lack of what appeared to be a significant reason for the departure or further explanation for why it occurred.
In an email to the campus community, all Nelms would say about what seemed to be an abrupt decision was that he had “carefully considered how I want to spend the remainder of my professional career.”
He wanted, Nelms said, to help “ensure the academic success of students served by historically black colleges and universities … by continuing the dialogue created with my publication, ‘A Call to Action,’ authored in 2010.”
Nelms rebuffed all further requests for comment about the decision.
Although he left the chancellorship quietly, during his five years at the helm of the university Nelms had made an undeniable mark.
During his time in Durham, he raised admission and academic progression standards at NCCU, was responsible for increasing online course offerings, establishing the university’s first Ph.D. program in 50 years and overseeing the construction of a new residence hall, the nursing building and a parking deck.
The chancellor, Perry said, “elevated the university, its standing and its reputation. He has been responsible for great improvements in student success and a tremendous improvement in infrastructure on the campus. Plus, he’s guided us through a very difficult time, in terms of fiscal challenges, in our history.”
Nelms, who came to NCCU after serving as a vice president for the Indiana University system, also had a national impact, said Marybeth Gasman, a leading scholar of HBCUs.
He “brought positive attention to HBCUs across the country,” Gasman said. “In a very short time, he has become a strong voice for HBCUs and their continued role in American higher education. He put NCCU center stage among HBCUs, raising its stature and inserting the institution into national higher education conversations.”
Officials moved quickly to appoint retired Judge Charles Becton to serve as interim chancellor and to constitute a search committee that would find a permanent replacement for Nelms.
The committee has solicited applications for the post and met several times during the fall. Sixty-five candidates have applied to be the next chancellor of NCCU and the committee plans to interview half a dozen of the applicants by the end of this month.
The committee and the Board of Trustees hope to forward the names of three finalists to UNC system President Tom Ross some time in January. Ross would then make the final decision and submit it to the Board of Governors for approval.
University officials would like to have Charlie Nelms’ replacement in place by next June.
10. Duke digs for dollars
9. DPS: No low-performing schools
8. City makes another attempt at Rolling Hills
7. Liberty Warehouse sees more ups, downs
6. Battle over 751 South development continues
5. Community loses great leaders
4. Tracey Cline ousted as Durham DA
3. UNC chancellor to step down in June
2. NCCU chancellor retires suddenly