April 6, 2012
Erskine Bowles, one of North Carolina’s best-known public servants, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree when UNC Asheville holds its May 2012 Commencement at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 5. Al Whitesides, a lifetime Asheville resident, and leader in civil rights, business and education, will also receive an honorary degree.
Bowles, known nationally and internationally for his public service at the highest levels, has a particularly close relationship with the University of North Carolina. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, he later served as president of the UNC system for five years beginning in 2006. Bowles continually sought ways to operate the University system more efficiently and effectively, streamlining administration and implementing numerous operational improvements. Bowles was a staunch and effective advocate for keeping UNC campuses accessible and affordable, while working to raise admissions standards and improve retention and graduation rates.
Before assuming the leadership at UNC, Bowles had already become an important figure on the national and global stages. In the 1990s, he served in the Clinton Administration as director of the Small Business Administration, and then as the President’s Chief of Staff. In that role, he helped negotiate the first balanced federal budget in a generation.
Bowles tried his hand at electoral politics, but lost his bids to become U.S. Senator in 2002 and 2004. Recalling his father’s words that there are “many ways to add to the community woodpile,” Bowles became United Nations Deputy Special Envoy to coordinate the global response to the catastrophic tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in 2004. Later, during his last year as UNC president, he was appointed by President Obama to co-chair the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
Bowles has also made important contributions outside of the university to his native North Carolina. A graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Business, Bowles began his business career at Morgan Stanley & Co. in New York, but returned to the Tar Heel State where he helped launch the investment banking firm of Bowles Hollowell Conner. He also helped found Dogwood Equity, chaired the Rural Prosperity Task Force, and served as a trustee of the Golden LEAF Foundation – three entities designed to bring economic development to rural North Carolina. Family illness inspired him to help lead efforts to create an ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) Center in Charlotte and to serve as the international president of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Whitesides, who currently serves as vice chair of the Asheville City Schools Board, began making contributions to the city as a high school student and member of ASCORE (Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality). ASCORE’s boycotts and protests were instrumental in bringing about non-violent desegregation in Asheville. Whitesides went on to a long and distinguished career in banking with First Union National Bank, Wachovia Bank, and Mountain First Bank. He has served as Chair of the Board of Trustees of UNC Asheville, and he currently chairs the Bulldog Athletic Association. He has as also served on the boards of many other Asheville institutions and organizations.
UNC Asheville’s May 2012 Commencement will take place on the University Quadrangle. Graduates will begin lining up at the Justice Center on campus at 8 a.m. before processing to the quad for the 9 a.m. ceremony. In case of severe weather, the ceremony may be moved indoors to the Kimmel Arena.
For more information about commencement, visit the Alumni Association website or call the Office of Alumni Relations at 828.251.6512.