Nancy J. Cable to step down as UNC Asheville Chancellor

October 13, 2022

At an October 12 meeting of the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees, Chancellor Nancy J. Cable announced her intention to step down from her Chancellor role, effective December 31, 2022. To provide support for a smooth leadership transition, she will serve in an advisory capacity on an on-call basis to the Interim Chancellor through July 31, 2023.

“From the day I joined the UNC Asheville academic community in the summer of 2018, I have been inspired by our dedicated and highly talented faculty and staff, and constantly impressed by our smart, curious, and creative students and student leaders,” Cable said in a message to the campus community.

“I am deeply grateful,” she added, “for the privilege and honor to have been a partner in advancing the energy, vitality, and quality of this extraordinary institution.”

In January 2023, Cable will become the Executive Director of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, based in Chapel Hill. Prior to leading UNC Asheville, she held a similar role as president of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

UNC Asheville Board chair Robby Russell thanked Cable on behalf of the trustees for being “a guiding force for good during very challenging times” and called her a “transformative leader who has built a firm foundation that will assure a very bright future for UNC Asheville.”

“By providing a compelling vision for the University’s future and securing significant funding necessary to realize these goals,” he said, “Chancellor Cable has laid the groundwork to improve further UNC Asheville’s national reputation as one of the most creative and innovative public liberal arts and sciences universities.”

Among her many accomplishments, Cable’s greatest legacy likely will rest largely on the development and implementation of the Revitalization Plan, a comprehensive effort focused on three compelling strategic needs for the University:

  • Strengthen all forms of revenue to build university-wide fiscal capacity,
  • Evolve and innovate the curriculum and pedagogy of the University, including adding at least four new master’s degree programs, and
  • Deepen and broaden the impact and service of the University to the state, region, and beyond

First developed in the fall of 2019 with several members of her senior staff—particularly Vice Chancellor of Budget and Finance John Pierce—Cable shared the Revitalization Plan widely with UNC System leaders, state legislators, the UNC Board of Governors, and regional corporate leaders and nonprofit entities throughout North Carolina, including selected foundations, as part of an extensive advocacy effort on behalf of UNC Asheville.

With the help of System leadership, these efforts resulted in UNC Asheville receiving a commitment of $5 million in annual recurring funds from the state legislature to support the Revitalization Plan. The University has already received $10 million in funding over the past two fiscal years, beginning in 2021.

An additional $2 million of recurring funds will create a new Chancellor’s Scholarship program for North Carolina students who are first-generation college students, live in rural communities, or come from underrepresented populations. The program is being implemented for the incoming Class of 2023, with some funds targeted toward current upper-class students.

As well, the University received a one-time $3 million matching grant from the state legislature to create the Asheville Trust, intended to strengthen graduation rates by reducing financial barriers for North Carolina students whose family adjusted gross income (AGI) is at or below $65,000. Once the University finishes its fundraising portion, UNC Asheville students will benefit from a $6 million endowment devoted in perpetuity to reducing or eliminating loan debt. This is the first program of its kind within the UNC System.

With these funding streams in place, the plan has been further refined through a collaborative campus wide process to focus on a variety of strategic goals:

  • Strengthen undergraduate enrollment and market position,
  • Launch four new master’s degree programs in engineering, climate resilience, public health, and creative writing,
  • Strengthen student retention and student degree completion and efficiency,
  • Modernize student affairs through high impact practices, including major improvements in career advising, job placement, and internship opportunities, and
  • Expand student opportunities in global study, internships, and student honors and leadership programs

Throughout the plan’s development, campus leaders credit Cable with providing transparency about the state of the University’s strengths and weaknesses through a series of Common Grounds sessions beginning in the spring of 2019. Along with conversations about student mental health and issues of retention and persistence, topics of best practices in higher education focused discussions on budget and finance, admission and financial aid, and advancement and gift procedures and priorities.

Beyond securing significant state funding, Cable’s priority to build greater fiscal capacity has come through launch of the University’s first-ever comprehensive campaign. Currently in its silent phase, the Centennial Campaign has already raised more than $43 million in gifts, pledges, and estate gifts. A revamped and energized Advancement office also recently set a new historic record of $12.1 million in annual giving for fiscal year 2022.

“These efforts in their entirety exemplify Chancellor Cable’s vision and success as a leader who identified challenges and then provided solutions,” said former UNC Asheville Board of Trustees chair Rick Lutovsky, who co-led the search effort that hired Cable. “For instance, the master’s degree program in public health in partnership with the Gillings School of Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill is now a reality,” he pointed to as an additional example, “and Nancy also helped secure a $1 million gift to strengthen our study abroad program and further globalize our campus.”

Lutovsky is also quick to add that these significant achievements for the University’s future occurred despite the challenges of a global pandemic.

In addition to avoiding layoffs and furloughs while navigating the challenges associated with COVID-19, Cable is particularly proud that UNC Asheville had the lowest prevalence of positive cases among the 17 UNC System campuses. The University also served the local community and region by creating a vaccine site that distributed over 21,000 inoculations to residents throughout all 18 counties in Western North Carolina and partnered with area colleges and universities—including Brevard, Mars Hill, Montreat, Warren Wilson, and Western Carolina—to provide grant funding for Student Health Ambassadors on all six campuses.

Cable will also be remembered for her many civic and community involvements.

Vic Isley, president and CEO of the Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau, credits Cable with engaging across many entities in the city of Asheville and Buncombe County to claim UNC Asheville’s rightful reputation as a place of quality, relevance, and service through the University’s human and intellectual capital.

“Nancy has been a positive and effective partner with both city and county leaders to raise the level of discourse in our community and the successful inaugural Asheville Ideas Fest is the shining example,” Isley said.

Launched in partnership with 10 corporate and nonprofit partners, and marketed nationally with Isley’s support, the Asheville Ideas Fest brought noteworthy national and regional speakers to Asheville for a three-day thought leadership ideas fest. The 450 attendees heard from notable speakers like Jon Meacham and Fareed Zakaria, as well as documentary filmmaker Lynn Novick, among others.

In addition to the Asheville Ideas Fest, Cable said she will remain particularly proud of several projects that may not have received as much attention as she looks back over her tenure.

“Together with the leadership of our Board of Trustees,” she noted, “we renamed four buildings on campus for historically significant women leaders from Asheville and the Western North Carolina region. We also hired a more diverse faculty and staff.”

Cable and senior staff colleagues also recently acquired the original Wilma Dykeman home in North Asheville as part of a partnership with the Wilma Dykeman Legacy Foundation for a Writer-in-Residence program. “This has been another key, strategic project that I hope will eventually further strengthen the leverage of UNC Asheville’s location in what is really an amazing writer’s city,” Cable said.

When asked what she will miss most, Cable said it will be time with students sitting on the quad in the scores of Adirondack chairs that she donated to the University shortly after arriving on campus nearly five years ago. “It has always given me joy,” she said, “to see our students and faculty gathered together in these welcoming green chairs on our academic quad.”

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Marietta College in Ohio, Cable earned her master’s degree from the University of Vermont and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, along with a certificate from the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University.

In addition to her leadership as Chancellor of UNC Asheville, Cable has served in a variety of national roles, including president of the Big South Athletic Conference, and as a board member of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the Ken Burns Better Angels Society, the National Trust for the Humanities, and the National Center for the Humanities in Raleigh.

Cable previously served as Interim President of Bates College, where she was also Vice President and Dean for Enrollment and External Affairs. Before that, she held several senior-level roles at the University of Virginia, was Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Davidson College and Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students at Guilford College, and she began her career serving in a variety of key positions at Denison University.