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Former UNC President C.D. Spangler dies

July 24, 2018

C.D. Spangler Jr.

C.D. Spangler Jr., the Charlotte businessman who led the University of North Carolina system from 1986 to 1997, died Monday, UNC officials said. He was 86.

UNC President Margaret Spellings called Spangler “a giant of our state.”

“He will be remembered as a gifted business leader, a compassionate philanthropist and, above all, as a public servant who answered the call of the university at a critical time in its history,” Spellings said in a statement. “He believed in the power of education to change lives and transform a state, and he made those possibilities into reality through his life’s work. The first in his family to go to college, Dick never forgot who our public universities were meant to serve. North Carolina is the prosperous, growing state that it is because of principled leaders like Dick.”

A Charlotte native, Spangler graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and Harvard Business School. He headed a bank that later became part of Bank of America, and he also was chairman of Charlotte-based drywall maker National Gypsum Co.

Spangler chaired the State Board of Education from 1982 to 1986, when he was tapped to succeed William Friday as the second president of the 17-campus UNC system.

During his tenure as UNC president, he fought to keep tuition low and pushed to highlight the system’s role as a powerful engine for the state’s economy.

“Dick Spangler fought against tuition increases, understanding that many North Carolinians can’t afford what others consider the modest cost of attending a state university,” Wyndham Robertson, who served on Spangler’s staff for much of his tenure, said in a statement. “He made the system a more comfortable place for women and minorities. He sought them out and pushed them into positions of leadership. He was a great boss. As the first female vice president of the UNC System, I had some tricky moments, but I always knew he had my back. He loved North Carolina and often said being president was the best job in the world.”

Spangler also served on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and the Governor’s Commission on Education for Economic Growth.

“Dick Spangler was a champion for public education as a member of his local school board, chairman of the State Board of Education and president of our great university system. We will miss his courage, innovation and inspiration,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement.

Spangler and his family foundation have funded and helped to complete more than 120 distinguished professorships across the UNC system.

He is survived by his wife, Meredith, and daughters Abigail and Anna. Anna Spangler Nelson is a member of the UNC Board of Governors.

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