Featured photo: UNC-Greensboro Provost Debbie Storrs announced she will step down Wednesday, citing the metastatic breast cancer with which she was diagnosed in 2022.

This story was originally published by Joe Killian, NC Newsline on April 24, 2024

UNC-Greensboro Provost Debbie Storrs announced she will step down Wednesday, citing the metastatic breast cancer with which she was diagnosed in 2022.

“The disease is stage 4, with treatment that has been challenging given its significant side effects,” Storrs wrote in a message to the campus community Wednesday. “As such, I will be going on leave for disability effective at the month’s end. I won’t be returning to my position as provost and executive vice chancellor, nor will I return to serve as a faculty member.”

“This is not a diagnosis one survives,” Storrs wrote. “But instead, it is about managing symptoms, slowing spread, and pursuing quality of life.”

Storrs has served as provost and executive vice chancellor at UNCG since 2021, seeing the university through a rocky rebuilding period after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the university has weathered financial and enrollment headwinds, it has undergone a controversial reevaluation of its programs. Storrs oversaw a hotly debated process that led to a February announcement of 20 program cuts. Opposition to the process led the campus’ faculty Senate to censure Storrs and Chancellor Frank Gilliam and, last month, to pass a “no confidence” vote in Storrs’ leadership.

Storrs addressed that controversy in her message Wednesday, saying she understood that her decisions made some angry.

“Expectedly, some faculty at UNCG followed suit as my decisions have served as a lightning rod for criticism and backlash — including the faculty’s recent no-confidence vote,” Storrs wrote. “I understand that it can temporarily feel satisfying, even empowering, for some faculty members to stage rage, attack leadership, question integrity, and critique change when confronted with a decision not to their liking. However, after a year-long, inclusive, and transparent process in response to actual conditions, I have zero confidence in this impulse. Pedestrian oppositional behavior at the end of this stage of our thoughtful process offers no constructive and essential solutions for the future of UNCG.”

Her health struggles have given her “new perspectives on life,” Storrs wrote, but her view of the campus’ work mission and future remains the same.

“I care deeply for UNCG and the entire community, especially the students and families who count on us to make the hard choices for the University’s long-term viability and for future students,” Storrs wrote.

Gilliam praised Storrs in an accompanying community message. UNCG Chancellor Frank Gilliam. (Photo: UNCG)

“I couldn’t have made a better hire,” Gilliam wrote. “And we’re a much better community for her many contributions. She has enabled us to make incredible strides.”

“That she has continued to serve our community with her tireless drive — amid medical treatments and challenging side effects — underscores Provost Storrs’ indomitable courage, commitment, and spirit,” Gilliam wrote. “She is a visionary leader with a spine of steel. She has been the best person for the provost’s key leadership role during this period of historic change for UNC Greensboro and higher education at large.”

Senior Vice Provost Alan Boyette will step in as acting provost starting May 1, Gilliam wrote, as the university prepares for a national search for Storrs’ permanent successor. That search — in partnership with search first Isaacson, Miller — will begin in August, Gilliam wrote.

“It’s been an honor for me to serve alongside Debbie,” Gilliam wrote. “Although I’ll miss her as a colleague, I’m grateful that she’ll remain in Greensboro, where we will continue to share our care with her and her family. She has not only our appreciation but also the community’s full support — today and always.”

NC Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. NC Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Rob Schofield for questions: [email protected]. Follow NC Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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