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Provost's Statement Regarding First Lady Mary Easley

By Larry Nielsen, Provost

Many of you have heard and read the news stories over the past week regarding my decision to hire Mary Easley into a new position on our faculty. A number of those stories have painted an incomplete picture. As provost and the person responsible for her hiring, I want to present the facts directly to our faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends.

We are delighted and fortunate to have someone of Mrs. Easley’s caliber and breadth of experience at NC State. Over the past two years, Mrs. Easley has built the Millennium Seminar series into a highly visible and well-received program, having brought to campus national figures such as David Gergen, Robert Reich, Charlie Rose, Senator Lindsey Graham, Donna Shalala and others. Speakers already arranged by Mrs. Easley for this coming academic year include former senator Bill Bradley and NCAA President Myles Brand.

In her new position, Mrs. Easley’s responsibilities have been significantly expanded, warranting a new salary in the range of other management and law faculty at NC State and its peer institutions. She has an outstanding academic and professional background, including significant experience as a prosecutor, legal scholar and lecturer. Her work as First Lady and the relationships she has built among the state’s and nation’s thought leaders bring significant insights and experience to her job and into our classrooms.

Having someone of Mrs. Easley’s background presented us with an excellent opportunity to take our Public Safety Leadership Initiative and Administrative Officers Management Program (AOMP) to the next level by creating a center. Part of Mrs. Easley’s new responsibilities will be to work broadly across the university and the community to conceptualize, implement and direct a formal Center for Public Safety Leadership. This center will, through teaching, research and community engagement, develop best practices in the administration and leadership of  “first response” – the work of police, firefighters, port officials, emergency medical personnel, homeland security official and others.

The creation of this center is consistent with our strategic plan priority in public policy and with the goals of the University of North Carolina Tomorrow initiative to enhance the capacity of North Carolina’s communities and government agencies. This is an opportunity for our university – and for Mrs. Easley – to make a strong and favorable impact on a vital workforce sector. In addition to her work as center director, she will teach two classes annually in the AOMP.

In her new position, Mrs. Easley will also lead the development of our academic programs relating to the legal professions.  In this capacity, she will co-coordinate our pre-law advising program, develop collaborations with law schools in the region and institute a variety of seminars, workshops and other events that support the significant number of our students who want to pursue careers in the legal profession.

Mrs. Easley’s appointment is subject to the approval of the UNC Board of Governors.

Historically, NC State has interpreted Board of Governors policy to mean that salary increases associated with fixed-term appointments such as the one offered to Mrs. Easley do not require Board of Governors approval. UNC General Administration has advised us that our interpretation of board policy differs from theirs and that of other UNC institutions. Therefore, all such affected contracts, including Mrs. Easley’s, will be reviewed in the ordinary course by the UNC Board of Governors at its next regularly scheduled meeting.

The NC State Board of Trustees has unanimously endorsed Mrs. Easley’s new position and compensation level, as has the Chancellor.  President Bowles has said, “I join the Board of Trustees in expressing my delight that Mrs. Easley will consider continuing her public service through her work at NC State. She will continue to be a tremendous asset for NC State in her expanded position and will bring additional depth to an already strong faculty and leadership team.”