Private support for the public good

Chancellor Holden Thorp

Chancellor Holden Thorp

Private support has always been critical to the mission of the nation’s first public university, as this past University Day reminded me.

Our keynote speaker was Jamie Bartram, director of the Water Institute at UNC in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. The institute aims to “bring together individuals and institutions from diverse disciplines and sectors and empower them to work together to solve the most critical global issues in water and health.”

Jamie is ideal for the task. He is one of the world’s most renowned water experts, with more than 20 years of experience in international policy, research and advisory work in public health and disease prevention. His career before coming to Carolina in 2009 included more than 10 years at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, where he coordinated the Water, Sanitation and Health Unit that received international recognition for its leadership. Jamie led reform of the WHO’s international monitoring and standard-setting practices and was the first chair of UN-Water, ensuring coordination and coherent action across the UN system. He was instrumental in developing influential communities of practice that galvanized world expertise around water issues. His work earned the International Water Association Grand Award in 2004.

Jamie Bartram

Jamie Bartram, Don and Jennifer Holzworth Distinguished Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, delivers the 2012 University Day keynote address.

At Carolina, Jamie has been the driving force behind what has become America’s leading conference on water and health, drawing more than 500 people from around the world each year. Also under his leadership, UNC became one of the founding members of the U.S. Water Partnership, launched by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on World Water Day in 2012. The partnership aims to build the capacity of nations and organizations to solve the world’s biggest water challenges.

And so it’s no surprise that Jamie’s presence at Carolina is a perfect fit for our two-year, campus-wide academic theme, “Water In Our World.” We’re mobilizing the depth and diversity of our faculty knowledge to examine issues such as how to make safe water available to people everywhere, because that access is critical to health, the economy and social development.

The Water Institute and Jamie are integral to this effort. And both have benefitted greatly from private support.


And so it’s no surprise that Jamie’s presence at Carolina is a perfect fit for our two-year, campus-wide academic theme, “Water In Our World.”


In large part, the institute owes its existence to strategic investments made possible by a $50 million commitment from Dennis and Joan Gillings in 2007. More recently, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awarded the institute a $1.5 million grant that will enable the institute to work with the foundation and its grantees to improve their strategies to make clean water accessible to those most in need around the world.

Jamie holds the Don and Jennifer Holzworth Distinguished Professorship of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. The professorship, created by a $666,000 gift from the Holzworths, provides him with salary, travel, student assistance and other scholarly support.

In his University Day address, Jamie noted that while he was still at the WHO, he heard about Carolina’s reputation for being a place where people come together to tackle big challenges: “Today I would like to make the case that the importance of water combined with this defining characteristic of our University community offers an exceptional opportunity for world-leading and world-changing academic endeavor,” he said.

No doubt private support will continue to be at the forefront of that vision.

Hark the Sound.