Dr. Christopher Columbus Fordham III, former dean of the School of Medicine and chancellor emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who led Carolina during a span of major success in the 1980s, died last week at UNC Hospitals. A longtime Chapel Hill resident, he was 81.
â€œOur hearts and prayers go out to the Fordham family and their friends,â€ said Chancellor Holden Thorp. â€œChancellor Fordham was one of this Universityâ€™s greatest leaders. When I earned my undergraduate degree in chemistry, his signature appeared on my diploma.
â€œAs a graduating senior, I couldnâ€™t appreciate the challenges he faced as chancellor,â€ Thorp said. â€œToday, I know that for him it was a labor of love, and that we all are so fortunate to continue benefitting from his wisdom and decisive action. Chancellor Fordham is rightly regarded as the driving force behind a period of extraordinary success at Carolina. We will never forget his deep love for this place.â€
As chancellor from 1980 to 1988, Fordham oversaw a major revision of the undergraduate curriculum and led the push to significantly boost faculty research funding, which grew from $56 million to $105 million. Under his leadership, the state increased the Universityâ€™s budget. He renewed the focus on private fundraising, putting Carolina among the nationâ€™s top 20 public institutions for contributions and increasing the endowment from $30 million to $130 million.
During this period, the Universityâ€™s national reputation as a high-quality public research university â€” a â€œpublic Ivyâ€ â€” also grew.
A native of Greensboro, Fordham is one of 18 members of his family to attend the University. Under his leadership as dean of the UNC School of Medicine, the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program was established. Fordham is the only medical doctor to serve as the Universityâ€™s chancellor.
Other accomplishments during Fordhamâ€™s tenure as chancellor included overseeing construction of the Dean E. Smith Center; Sitterson Hall, which houses the computer science department; the Hanes Art Center, home of the art department; the Walter Royal Davis Library; and the Kenan Center, home of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise.
Fordham is survived by his wife, Barbara, of Chapel Hill and a Carolina alumna; and three daughters: Pam Fordham Richey of Durham, Susan Fordham Crowell and husband James Crowell of Myersville, Md.; and Betsy Fordham Templeton and husband Michael Maloney of Durham, as well as six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Orange United Methodist Church Building Fund, 1220 Martin Luther King Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514; the Fordham Fund for Diversity in the Health Professions, Medical Foundation of North Carolina Inc., (UNC School of Medicine), 880 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514; or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, P.O. Box 4527, New York, NY, 10163.