|Provost of Washington University in St. Louis|
July 1, 2013
|Preceded by||Edward S. Macias|
|10th Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill|
July 1, 2008 – June 30, 2013
|Preceded by||James Moeser|
|Succeeded by||Carol Folt|
|Born||Herbert Holden Thorp
August 16, 1964
Fayetteville, North Carolina
|Residence||St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.|
|Alma mater||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
California Institute of Technology
|Profession||College administrator, Chemist|
|Website||Office of the Provost of Washington University in St. Louis|
Herbert Holden Thorp (born August 16, 1964) is an American chemist, inventor, musician, professor, and entrepreneur. He served as the tenth chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Thorp assumed the position of chancellor on July 1, 2008, succeeding James Moeser, and, at age 43, was noted at the time as being among the youngest leaders of a university in the United States. At the time of his selection as chancellor, Thorp was the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a Kenan Professor of chemistry at the university. Thorp is a 1986 graduate of UNC; he later earned a Ph.D in chemistry from California Institute of Technology, and was a postdoctoral associate at Yale University.
In September 2012, Thorp announced his intention to resign effective 30 June 2013, and to return to teaching in the Chemistry department at UNC, following a scandal involving the NCAA. Shortly thereafter, in February 2013, he announced his decision to leave the University and take up the job of provost at Washington University in St. Louis. Thorp took over as provost on July 1, 2013, replacing Dr. Edward Macias who had served in that role for 25 years.
Early life and education
Thorp's father, Herbert Holden "Herb" Thorp (d. 1996), was a native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He was an attorney who earned an undergraduate degree from UNC in 1954 and a law degree - also from UNC - in 1956. His mother, Olga "Bo" Thorp (née Bernardin, b. 1933), a 1956 UNC graduate, is a native of Columbia, South Carolina; her parents were Italian immigrants who died when she was 15. Both of Thorp's parents were involved in creating Fayetteville Little Theater, now known as the Cape Fear Regional Theater, in 1962. Herb Thorp was its first president, and Bo Thorp was its creative director for 50 years until stepping down in April 2012.
Thorp's parents moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1960, and Thorp was born there on August 16, 1964. He spent much of his youth involved with the theater, performing in productions led by his mother, and met his future wife, Patti Worden, in 1974 at the theater. He attended St. Patrick Catholic School, a private middle school. He is remembered as a good student who finished the algebra textbook by Thanksgiving, and a geometry book the following Easter.
In the summer of 1981, at age 17, while studying guitar at Boston's Berklee College of Music, Thorp won first place and a $500 prize in a northeast regional competition to solve a Rubik's Cube puzzle. His motivation for entering the competition was to earn money to buy jazz records. Winning the competition also earned him a trip to the national competition, which was aired on the television program That's Incredible! He placed fifth in that national competition, and again won first place in a regional competition the following year, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
After graduating from Terry Sanford High School in 1982, Thorp attended the only university he had applied to, the University of North Carolina. He was a pre-medical student initially, and later turned to chemistry and academia, earning a BS degree in 1986. He completed doctoral work in three years (instead of the normal five) at the California Institute of Technology in 1989, earning a Ph.D under Harry B. Gray at the age of 24. He completed post-doctoral work at Yale in 1990.
Research and entrepreneurship
Thorp was awarded a Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1991 by the National Science Foundation, which provided $100,000 of research funding annually for five years. Later in 1991, Thorp was one of 20 people awarded a grant by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the $500,000 fellowship was for research on compounds used in genetic therapy. Both grants were for research to develop cancer and AIDS drugs as alternatives to chemotherapy.
In 1996, Thorp co-founded biotechnology company Alderaan Diagnostics, later renamed Xanthon, Inc., to commercialize a technology he co-developed. The technology involved using electricity to test compounds that could later become new drugs. It was intended to turn a process that previously took months into an electronic process that would instead take hours. In 2001, Thorp was recognized by Fortune Small Business as a Small Business Innovator for the work that led to the founding of the company. Xanthon raised several rounds of venture capital, totaling $25 million, before folding in 2002, after technical glitches had delayed release of its commercial product and it could not find further funding.
In 2005, Thorp co-founded Viamet Pharmaceuticals, another biotechnology company, to develop treatments for cancer and other diseases. It raised $4 million in venture capital funding in 2007, and an additional $18 million in 2009. Thorp is no longer involved in operation of the company.
Thorp is a member of the scientific advisory board of Ohmx, a biotechnology firm based on technology developed by his doctoral mentor, Harry B. Gray. He was previously a venture partner at Hatteras Venture Partners, co-founded by his brother Clay. He gave up that role after being named chancellor of UNC in 2008, and his equity stake in the firm was transferred to a blind trust.
University of North Carolina
Turning down employment offers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of California, Berkeley, Thorp returned to his alma mater in 1993 to teach, rising from visiting assistant professor to professor in six years. In 1998, he received a Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
In 2001, Thorp became the director of the Morehead Planetarium, part of UNC. That fall, he co-led a student focus group responsible for exploring and providing feedback on the University's consideration of a branch campus of the Kenan–Flagler Business School in Qatar. In 2005, he was named a Kenan Professor and chair of the chemistry department of the College of Arts and Sciences. He led the 2005 committee that selected the book as recommended reading for that fall's incoming freshmen, Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story, by North Carolina native Timothy B. Tyson.
He became the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2007, after a nationwide search. One year later, he was named chancellor of the University after being nominated by Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina System, and unanimously chosen by the Board of Governors.
In 2013, Thorp resigned the position of Chancellor amid allegations of widespread academic fraud, which were later outlined in Wainstein Report. The Wainstein Report describes the findings of an independent investigation conducted by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein. It describes abuses spanning over 18 years, which included “no-show” classes that had little to no faculty oversight. Approximately half of the enrollees in these classes were athletes.
Beginning with his first theater appearance at age 3 in Carnival!, Thorp has been involved with many aspects of performance. He worked in lighting for productions at the theater company directed by his mother, and later took on the music. He took piano and guitar lessons and formed a garage band as a teenager. While doing post-doctoral work, he wrote some music for the Yale Cabaret and a musical production for the River Renaissance on the Cape Fear River. He has written several musicals and has played piano with his local church. He has also played with Equinox, a local jazz band.
In 1998, Thorp was the musical director for a performance of The Sound of Music, in which his wife played Maria von Trapp, and as a result, missed the ceremony at which the Tanner award recipients were recognized.
Awards and publications
In 2010, Thorp wrote a book on entrepreneurship called "Engines of Innovation". With his co-author Buck Goldstein, they insist that the world's biggest problems can be solved through innovation at large research universities. They also created a website to encourage innovation on college campuses.
Thorp has been married to the former Patti Worden, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Yale University, since 1991. They have two children. He has a younger brother, Clay, who is also a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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