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U. of North Carolina Board Chair Resigns After Controversial Search That Led to Spellings

The chairman of the University of North Carolina system’s governing board, John C. Fennebresque, has resigned after leading a controversial search that picked Margaret Spellings, the former education secretary under George W. Bush, as the system’s next president. According to a news release on the system’s website, Mr. Fennebresque said his resignation was meant to give the system “a fresh start” and “to make way for and encourage new leadership” on the Board of Governors.

Mr. Fennebresque, a lawyer in Charlotte, N.C., has been a lightning rod of controversy ever since presiding over the ouster of the system’s current president, Thomas W. Ross, without giving an explicit reason. While conducting the search for Mr. Ross’s successor, Mr. Fennebresque was called on to resign by board members who said he had kept them out of the loop, and was assailed by legislators who said the search wasn’t transparent enough.

In a written statement, Mr. Ross praised the departing chairman. “While John Fennebresque and I may have had our differences at times, he truly loves the University of North Carolina and has been a tireless, passionate advocate for it,” Mr. Ross said. “He has served the UNC system with great dedication and commitment.”

The selection of Ms. Spellings has done little to tamp down controversy swirling in the system, with many faculty members wary of her background and priorities.

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