Holden Thorp, who will step down as chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the end of this school year, will become provost at Washington University in St. Louis on July 1, Washington University’s chancellor announced in an early morning email Monday.

Thorp’s loss will be felt in the Triangle’s technology and entrepreneurial community. He was both an inventor and entrepreneur and also led efforts to encourage entrepreneurship at UNC.

Thorp, 48, has been UNC-CH’s chancellor for four years, the last two of which have been marred by athletic, academic and administrative scandals. He has said that he wants to spend his final months on the job putting policies and procedures in place so that similar problems don’t recur.

In his announcement last fall, he said he planned to return to being a chemistry professor at UNC-CH.

In his new role at Washington University, Thorp will hold an endowed professorship in the department of medicine at the School of Medicine and in the department of chemistry in Arts & Sciences.

In an email to Carolina students, faculty and staff on Monday, Thorp said he will always love UNC.

“When I announced my decision last September to step down as chancellor, I was humbled and flattered by your outpouring of support,” Thorp wrote. “This exciting new opportunity represents the best of both worlds. My new positions will enable me to return to my passions of teaching and research while, at the same time, as the chief academic officer, will allow me to continue many of the administrative duties that I’ve enjoyed as chancellor.”

A North Carolina native, Thorp became UNC-CH’s 10th chancellor in 2008. In all, he spent three decades at the university, starting as an undergraduate student who earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry with honors in 1986. He earned a doctorate in chemistry in 1989 at the California Institute of Technology and did postgraduate work at Yale University.

After teaching a year at North Carolina State University, he returned to UNC-CH to teach chemistry in 1993. He became chair of the chemistry department in 2005 and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2007.


Through his research, Thorp developed technology for electronic DNA chips and founded several companies. He raised funds for a science complex that helped boost faculty research productivity and served as director of UNC’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

“Holden Thorp is one of America’s most highly respected leaders in higher education,” Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton said in a statement. “He is a great scientist with an excellent track record of achievement and a reputation for his commitment to student success, academic excellence and professional integrity. He is an entrepreneur who has founded two companies and understands the importance of innovation and technology transfer.”