MCLA President Mary K. Grant has been elected as the seventh chancellor of UNC Asheville.
MCLA President Mary K. Grant has been elected as the seventh chancellor of UNC Asheville. (Photo courtesy of UNC Asheville)

NORTH ADAMS -- Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President Mary K. Grant has been elected today as the seventh chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

Grant, 53, has been the steward of MCLA since 2002.

The UNC leadership position attracted an initial pool of 119 applicants, which was narrowed to three finalists. UNC President Tom Ross placed Grant's name in nomination for the role of chancellor today during the Board of Governors' regular August meeting. It was unanimously approved.

Grant will assume her new duties as of Jan. 5, 2015, succeeding Anne Ponder, who announced in January that she would retire this summer after nine years in the post.

Ross announced that Doug Orr, president emeritus of Warren Wilson College, will serve as interim chancellor of UNC Asheville beginning Sept. 1, serving until Grant's official arrival.

Grant was in attendance for Friday's meeting and announcement, along with her husband, Jim Canavan, and is scheduled to attend an on-campus welcome reception at UNC Ashville today, from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

When she took to the podium, Grant was wearing a scarf of signature UNC blue, and immediately acknowledged both the UNC and MCLA community for their work in the liberal arts field of higher education.

"It's a great joy for me to be here. I've met so many wonderful people," said Grant, who also acknowledged "my team back at MCLA" for their work in preparing for a transition in leadership.


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She also acknowledged outgoing Chancellor Ponder. "We don't fill shoes, we stand on shoulders ... and your shoulders are strong," Grant said.

Grant was named in 2002 as the 11th president of MCLA and is the first alumna to serve in that capacity.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to work alongside Dr. Grant. Under her leadership the college has flourished. I am excited and happy about the many opportunities that the future holds for both the UNC Asheville and MCLA communities," Tyler Fairbank, chair of MCLA's Board of Trustees, said in an initial written response to the news.

Grant holds a Ph.D. in social policy from The Heller School at Brandeis University, a master's degree in public affairs from the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, and a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.