Governor Cooper Announces Members of Commission on the Governance of Public Universities in North Carolina | Eastern North Carolina Now

Press Release:

    RALEIGH: Today, Governor Roy Cooper appointed individuals to the Governor's Commission on the Governance of Public Universities in North Carolina. Earlier this month, Governor Cooper signed an Executive Order establishing the Commission to advise the Office of the Governor and the public on the status of public higher education governance in North Carolina and on strategies to successfully position the state's universities and colleges to meet the needs of future students.

    "It's clear that leaders across our state, and across the political spectrum, care deeply about our remarkable university system and want these institutions to thrive. I appreciate the willingness of these talented and committed people to step forward and work together under the leadership of Chairs Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings on a serious, results-oriented review of university governance and I look forward to their recommendations on improving the status of higher education governance in our great state," said Governor Cooper.

    The Governor named the following members of the Commission:

  • Thomas W. Ross, Sr. of Davidson as co-chair. Ross is the former President of the Volcker Alliance, President Emeritus of the University of North Carolina System, and President Emeritus of Davidson College. He previously served as a Superior Court Judge and director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
  • Margaret Spellings of Texas as co-chair. Spellings serves as President and CEO of Texas 2036, a non-partisan, non-profit organization building long-term, data-driven strategies to secure Texas' prosperity through the state's bicentennial and beyond. Previously, she served as the U.S. Secretary of Education and White House Chief Domestic Policy Advisor under President George W. Bush; President of the George W. Bush Presidential Center; and President Emeritus of the University of North Carolina System.
  • Representative John R. Bell IV of Goldsboro as a member at-large. Representative Bell is a native of Mount Olive, North Carolina and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Sociology. He is serving his fifth term representing the citizens of House District 10 which includes Greene, Johnston, and Wayne counties. Bell has served as House Majority Leader since August 2016.
  • W. Louis Bissette, Jr. of Asheville as a member at-large. Bissette is an attorney with the law firm of McGuire Wood & Bissette in Asheville, where he served two terms as Mayor. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Wake Forest University and UNC Asheville, and he is a former member of the Board of Trustees of Western Carolina University and the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina System, serving as Chairman from 2015 to 2018.
  • Dr. Nicole Dobbins of Summerfield as a member at-large. Dobbins is an Associate Professor of Special Education in the Department of Educator Preparation at North Carolina A&T State University. Her research involves equitable and inclusive educational strategies with emphasis on differentiation through the application of Universal Design for Learning. Dr. Dobbins is currently the Vice Chair of the UNC Faculty Assembly and the NC A&T State University Faculty Senate. She is committed to ensuring faculty have a voice in shared governance through advocacy, communication and collaborative efforts.
  • Representative John Fraley of Mooresville as a member at-large. Former Representative Fraley served in the North Carolina House of Representatives from 2015-2020. Fraley is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill. He is a current member of the UNC Board of Governors and serves as Board Chair of myFutureNC.
  • Isaiah Green of Massachusetts as a member at-large. A recent graduate of UNC Asheville, Green is the former student member of the UNC System Board of Governors and the former Student Body President at UNC Asheville. During his time in both of these positions, he worked collaboratively with university and community leaders to ensure students had a voice and were kept engaged in institutional governance.
  • Ann Goodnight of Raleigh as a member at-large. Goodnight has been an advocate for children and education for more than 25 years. She is a co-founder and board member of Cary Academy and a trustee of North Carolina State University. She serves as Chair of the Goodnight Educational Foundation, an active board member for myFutureNC, and serves on the board of directors of the GSK Foundation. In addition, Mrs. Goodnight also serves on the boards of the YMCA of the Triangle and the NC Science Festival.
  • Dr. Clifford A. Jones, Sr. of Charlotte as a member at-large. Jones has served as the Senior Pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte since 1982. Jones previously served on the Winston-Salem State University Board of Trustees.
  • Gary Locklear of Pembroke as a member at-large. Locklear is a retired Superior Court Judge. He is currently working part-time with the Robeson County Attorney's Office. Locklear has previously served on the UNC Pembroke Board of Trustees.
  • Senator Gladys A. Robinson of Greensboro as a member at-large. Robinson has just been elected to her seventh term in the North Carolina Senate. She is 1st Vice Chair of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus. Robinson previously served on the UNC Board of Governors for 10 years and now serves as the North Carolina/South Carolina Co-chair of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators Region V and the Governor's State Health Coordinating Council.
  • Karen A. Popp of Chapel Hill as a member at-large. Popp is a partner at the global law firm Sidley Austin LLP, where she is an international lawyer and co-leader of her practice group. Popp is the former Chair of UNC Charlotte's Board of Trustees and Foundation Board. She was the President of the UNC Law Alumni Association and a founding member of the Higher Education Works Foundation. Popp was the first female student body president in the UNC System. Popp has previously served as a commercial litigator at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City, Associate White House Counsel to President Clinton, attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, and a federal prosecutor in New York City.
  • Hon. Cressie Thigpen, Jr. of Raleigh as a member at-large. Thigpen served as a Special Superior Court Judge and on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. He served as the first African-American President of the North Carolina State Bar in 1999. He is a former Chair of the North Carolina Central University Board of Trustees and previously served on the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees.
  • John L. Townsend, III of New York as a member at-large. A native of Lumberton, Townsend moved to New York in 1982 where he spent his professional career at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Goldman Sachs, and Tiger Management. He has served on the Board of Trustees of UNC-Chapel Hill and currently serves as the chair of the UNC Investment Fund which manages the endowments of UNC-Chapel Hill and other System institutions. Townsend also serves as Chair of the current UNC-Chapel Hill Capital Campaign, which will conclude this year.
  • Brad Wilson of Raleigh as a member at-large. Wilson is CEO Emeritus of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. He served on the UNC Board of Governors for 16 years and served as Chair of the Board for 4 years. A graduate of Appalachian State University, Wake Forest Law School, and Duke University, he has served as an Executive in Residence at Wake Forest University and NC A&T State University. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at UNC-Chapel Hill.

    Contact: Mary Scott Winstead

    Phone: (919) 814-2100  •      Email:
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