CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina Central Chancellor Search Committee Chair Cressie Thigpen had reasons to be concerned when he hadn’t heard from the school’s top choice in several days.
Thigpen worried that the individual, having already turned down offers from three other institutions, would make North Carolina Central the fourth.
“We weren’t going to select this candidate,” Thigpen said. “This candidate was going to select us.”
On Friday, he did. Indiana University Vice President for Institutional Development and Student Affairs Charlie Nelms, 60, was named by the UNC Board of Governors to become the next chancellor, and 10th overall, at North Carolina Central. He will begin his duties on Aug. 1. Until that time, Beverly Jones, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at North Carolina Central, will serve as interim chancellor beginning June 16.
Nelms will succeed James Ammons who is slated to become the next president of Florida A&M on July 2. Florida A&M was one of three schools that Nelms had turned down prior to accepting the North Carolina Central position. The other two schools were Tennessee State and Grambling.
The Crawfordsville, Arkansas, native was in attendance at the Board of Governors meeting when the unanimous vote was cast confirming his appointment. Nelms said leading North Carolina Central would take a collaborative effort.
“This is not something I can do on my own,” Nelms said. “We have to do it together.”
This is the third time Nelms has been selected to lead an institution. He led Indiana University’s East Campus, a commuter campus, from 1987 to 1994. The school was the fastest growing in Indiana during his time at the school. North Carolina Central is currently the fastest growing in the UNC system, UNC President Erskine Bowles said, and currently has more than 8,200 students. Nelms was also chancellor at the University of Michigan-Flint from 1994 to 1998. During that time, Nelms helped to secure more than $75 million in private gifts to the school, Bowles said.
“Charlie Nelms brings to North Carolina Central University more than three decades of solid, successful administrative experience at both the campus and system levels,” Bowles said when recommending Nelms to the Board of Governors. “He is a proven leader – having served as chancellor of two very respected public universities – and he is a man who leads by example. He has earned a reputation for great integrity, sound judgment, and an unwavering commitment to student success.”
Nelms is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a historically black college. He also holds a master’s and doctorate degrees in higher education from Indiana University.
With the appointment, Nelms said it allows his career to come full circle: he always wanted to use his education and experience to one day lead a historically black college or university.
“He is passionate about the special mission of these institutions in nurturing students and helping them reach their full potential,” Bowles said. “He clearly understands the vast potential of North Carolina Central University to make a real difference in our state and I am convinced he has the skill-set and vision to take it to the next level.”