EDITOR’S NOTE: On Friday, the North Carolina Society of New York honored Higher Ed Works founder and chair Paul Fulton at its annual Dinner Dance. Since 1947, the Society has recognized 79 honorees, including John Motley Morehead III, John M. Belk, Dean E. Smith, Richard Hampton Jenrette, Julian and Josie Robertson, Gov. James Baxter Hunt, Jr., Dr. James and Ann Goodnight, and Thomas W. Ross. The following were Fulton’s remarks at the event.
NEW YORK (December 2, 2022) – Wow, what an honor and a privilege.
I have long heard about the North Carolina Society of New York. I have known many members and many people honored. But I never dreamed I would be standing here as an honoree.
It just goes to show that if you live long enough, nice things can happen – even to a little boy who grew up in Walnut Cove, and who some folks thought would never amount to much.
So I thank you for allowing me to have this feel-good moment and to share it with my family and friends.
I have a feeling I would not be standing here tonight if I had not been such a strong advocate for public higher education in North Carolina.
Since I retired from Sara Lee in 1993, I have been pretty involved in our University System in one way or another.
And to quote my friend Don Flow, who happens to be a graduate of the University of Virginia and also a past chair of the board at Wake Forest, “The UNC System is the most important institution in North Carolina. It is the distinctive difference between our state and every other Southern state. It sets us apart.”1
WE HAVE ONE of the fastest-growing states in the country. We rank No. 9 today in population, and we are closing in on Georgia for No. 8.2
We were recently recognized by CNBC as having the No. 1 business climate in the nation.3
The state has announced over the last year about 20 major companies that are either coming to North Carolina or making major expansions – companies like Apple, Google, Wolfspeed, Vinfast, Boom Supersonic and Toyota.
These six companies alone represent about 17,000 high-paying jobs that’s will require post-high school education and/or training.4
Some would say they are coming here because our taxes are lower.
BUT I WOULD ARGUE that the primary reason is talent.
Our University System, led by our flagships, UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State, churns out over 40,000 highly qualified graduates each year. And one of the best community-college systems in the country stands ready for job training.
In addition, the UNC System attracts almost $3 billion in research dollars every year. That not only cures diseases across the globe. It spins off patents and start-up companies galore.
But to quote Don Flow again, “If it is not depoliticized, I believe the UNC System will be significantly and permanently diminished.”5
I agree with that. Over the past 10 to 12 years, the UNC System has been subject to far too much politicization.
WE HAVE A LOT OF WORK to do to resist this.
In fact, the Governor just appointed a commission headed by Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings to make recommendations on how to improve University governance. Tom and Susan Ross are here tonight.
This is a vitally important mission that will give recommendations on how to improve our governance.
And even though I turned 88 in September, I ain’t quite finished yet myself. I hope you will join us in fighting against politicization and political overreach in public education.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here with you tonight. And thank you for this honor you have bestowed on me.