Chancellor choice

KU’s next chancellor brings with her a strong record of leadership and academic excellence.

Kansas University soon will have one more connection to the University of North Carolina.

The Kansas Board of Regents announced Friday the selection of Bernadette Gray-Little, the current UNC provost, as KU’s 17th chancellor. Interestingly, Gray-Little was on the search committee that recruited former KU Fine Arts Dean James Moeser to become Carolina’s chancellor in 2000. The tables were turned several years later when Moeser recruited Gray-Little, then dean of UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, to serve as UNC provost.

Earlier this month, Gray-Little received the UNC alumni association’s Distinguished Service Medal. Her citation for that medal noted that when her selection as provost was announced to the UNC Faculty Council, she received a standing ovation.

That seems like a strong endorsement for KU’s next chancellor.

Gray-Little’s selection is a landmark for KU. She will be the university’s first woman chancellor and its first black chancellor. Hopefully, this will be the first of many landmark events for KU under the new chancellor’s tenure.

In a press release announcing the selection, Regents Chairwoman Donna Shank said Gray-Little “rose to the top of an exceptionally talented and competitive pool of applicants” and that her accomplishments and character made her “ideally suited to propel KU to even loftier heights.”

In recent years, KU has struggled to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of both its faculty and student body, and it seems natural that Gray-Little would be able to advance that goal. At age 64, Gray-Little won’t be the youngest KU chancellor. However, the average tenure these days for a chancellor or president at a major U.S. university is six or seven years. If she served that long, she would be just a few years older than Chancellor Robert Hemenway is now.

Gray-Little obviously is highly regarded at North Carolina. The standing ovation reflects her support among faculty. The Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes outstanding service to the university and to its alumni association, speaks to her relationship with UNC alumni and friends. Those are talents that should help her build strong relationships with the various constituencies at KU.

The entrance of a new chancellor is an exciting time for KU. We welcome Gray-Little to Lawrence and hope she will, indeed, prove to be an inspired choice to be KU’s next chancellor.