Holden Thorp

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Holden Thorp
Provost of Washington University in St. Louis
In office
July 1, 2013 (2013-07-01) – July 15, 2019
Preceded byEdward S. Macias
Succeeded byBeverly R. Wendland
10th Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
In office
July 1, 2008 – June 30, 2013
Preceded byJames Moeser
Succeeded byCarol Folt
Personal details
Herbert Holden Thorp

(1964-08-16) August 16, 1964 (age 56)
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Spouse(s)Patti Thorp
ChildrenJohn Thorp
Emma Thorp
ResidenceSt. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
California Institute of Technology
Yale University
ProfessionCollege administrator, Chemist
WebsiteOffice of the Provost of Washington University in St. Louis

Herbert Holden Thorp (born August 16, 1964) is an American chemist, 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.[1][2] 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.[3][4] 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.[3][4]

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.[5] 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.[6][7] Thorp took over as provost on July 1, 2013, replacing Edward Macias. Thorp left Washington University St. Louis on July 15, 2019.[8]

On August 19, 2019, Thorp was announced as the new editor-in-chief of Science Magazine.[9][10]

Early life and education[edit]

Thorp's father, Herbert Holden "Herb" Thorp (d. 1996), was a native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.[11] He was an attorney who earned an undergraduate degree from UNC in 1954 and a law degree - also from UNC - in 1956.[11][12] His mother, Olga "Bo" Thorp (née Bernardin, b. 1933),[13] a 1956 UNC graduate, is a native of Columbia, South Carolina; her parents were Italian immigrants who died when she was 15.[12][14][15] Both of Thorp's parents were involved in creating Fayetteville Little Theater, now known as the Cape Fear Regional Theater, in 1962.[15] Herb Thorp was its first president, and Bo Thorp was its creative director for 50 years until stepping down in April 2012.[11][16][17]

Thorp's parents moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1960,[11] 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.[18] He attended St. Patrick Catholic School, a private middle school.[2] He is remembered as a good student who finished the algebra textbook by Thanksgiving, and a geometry book the following Easter.[2]

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.[12][18][19] 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.[19]

After graduating from Terry Sanford High School in 1982,[16] Thorp attended the only university he had applied to, the University of North Carolina.[2][12] 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.[18][20][21] He completed post-doctoral work with Gary Brudvig at Yale in 1990.[22]

In 1991, Thorp began teaching as an associate professor of chemistry at North Carolina State University.[22]

Research and entrepreneurship[edit]

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.[22][23] 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.[22][23]

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.[24] 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.[25][26][27]

In 2005, Thorp co-founded Viamet Pharmaceuticals, another biotechnology company, to develop treatments for cancer and other diseases.[27][28] It raised $4 million in venture capital funding in 2007, and an additional $18 million in 2009.[29][30][31] Thorp is no longer involved in operation of the company.[32]

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.[33][34] He was previously a venture partner at Hatteras Venture Partners, co-founded by his brother Clay.[35][36] 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.[37]

Thorp is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.[38]

University of North Carolina[edit]

Thorp returned to his alma mater in 1993 to teach, rising from visiting assistant professor to professor in six years.[25] In 1998, he received a Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.[39][40]

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.[41] 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.[42]

He became the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2007, after a nationwide search.[2] 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.[43]

In 2013, Thorp resigned the position of Chancellor amid allegations of widespread academic fraud, which were later outlined in Wainstein Report.[44] 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!,[12][20] 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.[45] He took piano and guitar lessons and formed a garage band as a teenager.[45] 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.[15] He has written several musicals and has played piano with his local church.[12] He has also played with Equinox, a local jazz band.[45]

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.[20]

Awards and publications[edit]

Thorp was named a Distinguished Young Alumnus in 2002 by the UNC General Alumni Association.[35][46]

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.[47]


Thorp has been married to Patti Worden since 1991.[22] They have two children.


  1. ^ Ferreri, Eric; Stancil, Jan (2008-05-08). "Holden Thorp named UNC chancellor". The News and Observer. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-05-11.
  2. ^ a b c d e Futch, Michael (2008-05-15). "Holden Thorp: The formula for success". Fayetteville Observer.
  3. ^ a b "Holden Thorp, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences". UNC College of Arts and Sciences. February 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-11.
  4. ^ a b "H. Holden Thorp: Kenan Professor of Chemistry; Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences". UNC Department of Chemistry. Archived from the original on 2002-12-05. Retrieved 2008-05-11.
  5. ^ Auerbach, Nicole (2012-09-17). "UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp to step down amid scandal". USA Today. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  6. ^ Givens, Steve (2013-02-18). "UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp named WUSTL provost". WUSTL Press Release. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  7. ^ "Thorp named provost at Washington University in St. Louis". UNC Campus Update. 2013-02-18. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  8. ^ "Former UNC Chancellor Thorp steps down as Washington University provost, The News Observer".
  9. ^ "Thorp named editor-in-chief of Science | The Source | Washington University in St. Louis". The Source. 2019-08-19. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
  10. ^ "AAAS names chemist Holden Thorp as editor-in-chief of Science". Science | AAAS. 2019-08-19. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
  11. ^ a b c d Reese, Pat (1996-12-13). "Thorp Dies at 64". Fayetteville Observer.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Egan, Bruce. "The Art of the Possible" (PDF). Carolina Alumni Review: 20–31. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ "Bo Thorp (b. 1933)". Fayetteville Observer. 2004-03-25.
  14. ^ "Good Ol' Girls | UNC-TV". UNC-TV. Archived from the original on 2010-04-04. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  15. ^ a b c Thrasher, Alice (1989-11-05). "Bo Thorp, First Lady of Community Theater". Fayetteville Observer.
  16. ^ a b Johnson, Corey G. (2008-10-08). "Thorp goes the extra step in return home". Fayetteville Observer.
  17. ^ Mullen, Rodger (2012-04-30). "Bo Thorp steps down as artistic director for Cape Fear Regional Theatre". Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  18. ^ a b c Ferreri, Eric; Stancill, Jane (2008-05-10). "In Thorp, UNC has 'a complete package'". News & Observer. p. B1.
  19. ^ a b Thrasher, Alice (2007-04-02). "He's got the solution". Fayetteville Observer.
  20. ^ a b c Barnes, Greg (1998-02-14). "Quick Fame Isn't What Drives Him". Fayetteville Observer.
  21. ^ "Holden Thorp". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  22. ^ a b c d e Mather, Tom (1991-10-12). "Marriage, grant grace young chemist's life". The News and Observer.
  23. ^ a b Walker, Suzanne (1991-09-21). "Researcher Gets Second Grant in Year". Fayetteville Observer.
  24. ^ Smith, Lee; Dreyfuss, Joel; Grimes, Brad; Keeney, Jennifer; Pendleton, Jennifer; Solomon, Karen; Spanbauer, Scott; Roberts-Witt, Sarah; et al. (2001-05-01). 11 (4). Fortune Small Business. p. 44. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ a b Williams, Allison (2001-10-20). "Holden Thorp's world of discovery". Fayetteville Observer.
  26. ^ Vollmer, Sabine (2002-09-30). "Only Xanthon's technology left". Triangle Business Journal. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  27. ^ a b Linker, Adam (2008-06-16). "New UNC chancellor Thorp doesn't plan to sever business ties". Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  28. ^ "Viamet | Founders". Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  29. ^ "Biotech raises $4 million". News & Observer. 2007-06-08. p. D6.
  30. ^ Cox, Jonathan B. (2009-07-08). "Drugmaker Viamet raises $18 million". News & Observer.
  31. ^ "Viamet Pharmaceuticals raises $18M". Triangle Business Journal. 2009-07-09. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  32. ^ Ranii, David (2011-01-20). "Viamet taps former FDA official". News & Observer.
  33. ^ "Overview". Ohmx Corporation. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
  34. ^ "Scientific Advisory Board". Ohmx Corporation. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
  35. ^ a b Brown, David E. "Holden Thorp '86 Named 10th Chancellor". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  36. ^ "Clay Thorp, General Partner". Hatteras Venture Partners. Archived from the original on 2011-10-14. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
  37. ^ Coletta, Chris (2008-08-26). "UNC chancellor cuts ties with Hatteras Venture Partners". Triangle Business Journal.
  38. ^ "Holden Thorp, Ph.D." UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Archived from the original on 2012-03-26. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  39. ^ "Previous Winners - Tanner, Friday, Sanders, Sitterson, and Johnston Awards for Excellence in Teaching". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  40. ^ "Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  41. ^ "Thorp to lead chemistry department, become Kenan professor in July". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 2005-02-10. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  42. ^ Stancill, Jane (2005-01-20). "UNC recommends a book; In it, a North Carolina native recounts a racial slaying and the uprising that followed". News & Observer. p. B6.
  43. ^ "Holden Thorp, 'One of Our Own,' Begins New Era as Carolina's 10th Chancellor" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  44. ^ Raleigh), Tyler Dukes (WRAL-TV. "Full Wainstein Report". www.documentcloud.org. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  45. ^ a b c Ferreri, Eric; Stancill, Jane (2008-05-14). "New UNC Chancellor a Renaissance Man - His Successes Range From Rubik's Cube to Research, Science to Jazz". Charlotte Observer. The News & Observer. p. 8B.
  46. ^ "Awards". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
  47. ^ "Engines of Innovation | Revving up the Entrepreneurial University". Rev Up Innovation. Archived from the original on 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2011-03-29.

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