Rosemary DePaolo

Rosemary DePaolo 


University of North Carolina Wilmington

In recommending Rosemary DePaolo for the position of UNCW chancellor to the UNC Board of Governors in April 2003, then-UNC President Molly Corbett Broad said, “She has consistently demonstrated a passionate commitment to undergraduate education, as well as a deep understanding of the special relationship between public institutions and the regions they were founded to serve.” Those strengths were the hallmarks of Dr. DePaolo’s tenure at UNCW. 

She introduced seven strategic goals that would become the university’s roadmap to excellence. A detailed plan was developed, progress was charted all along the way, results were compared to other high-quality universities and efforts constantly were refined to create an academic experience second to none.

Under Dr. DePaolo’s leadership and through the continued focus and commitment of faculty and staff, UNCW made consistent and steady progress as an institution, gaining an outstanding regional reputation, receiving national attention in many areas and achieving or exceeding its seven strategic goals in just seven years.

According to former UNC President Erskine Bowles, “Rosemary DePaolo has been an absolutely extraordinary chancellor for UNC Wilmington and a strong, effective advocate for the entire southeastern region of our state. Under her leadership, the campus has experienced dramatic growth - in enrollment, in the academic quality of the student body, in the breadth and national stature of its academic programs and in the expansion of campus facilities,” he said when she announced her retirement in October 2010.

Under Dr. DePaolo’s leadership, UNCW developed into a powerhouse of education, opportunity, innovation and change. Its regional economic impact was estimated at $500 million. Add $130 million in construction projects and more than $1 million in the annual value of its students’ volunteerism, and the university’s tremendous impact on the community during her tenure is obvious.

In addition, research funding quadrupled and construction began on a facility designed to greatly enhance the state’s growing marine biotechnology industry.

UNCW developed a model partnership with Coastal Carolina Community College and Camp Lejeune, opening up numerous opportunities for veterans, active military and their families to meet their higher education goals. To support the needs of southeastern North Carolina, doctoral degrees in marine biology and educational leadership were added and the College of Health and Human Services was established. 

During Dr. DePaolo’s tenure, UNCW’s student-athletes excelled in the classroom and in competition. They maintained one of the highest collective graduation rates in both the UNC system and the CAA. From 2003 through spring 2011, UNCW student-athletes won 24 CAA championships, including first-time titles in men’s soccer, women’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s golf, men’s golf and baseball. The Seahawks had 24 CAA Coach of the Year honorees, and nine student-athletes were named CAA Player of the Year. Six teams received a Public Recognition Award from the NCAA. Eighteen student-athletes were named CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year in their respective sports, and three collected CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards for the conference overall. 

In one of nation’s worst economic periods, UNCW saw private financial support grow significantly. The university launched a $65 million comprehensive fundraising campaign in February 2011 with nearly 89 percent of the goal already raised. From July 2005 to June 2011, donors created more than 200 scholarships, doubling the number that had been available. In addition, UNCW’s endowment nearly tripled during Dr. DePaolo’s tenure, from $23.3 million to $66 million.

To give the staff a more effective voice in university and system operations, Dr. DePaolo championed the formation of a Staff Senate, which has since become a model for other universities.

As chancellor, Rosemary DePaolo inspired the university to formulate a strategic plan and focus on measureable goals. She helped to refocus its mission to provide powerful teaching, conduct meaningful research and engage in much-needed community outreach, allowing UNCW students, faculty and staff to soar to new heights.