Top UNC fundraiser resigns amid questions

Concerns arose over trips with Tyler Hansbrough’s mother

dkane@newsobserver.comSeptember 11, 2012 

— Matt Kupec, a star quarterback for UNC-Chapel Hill who later returned to become its chief fundraiser, resigned Sunday after an internal investigation showed he and university fundraiser Tami Hansbrough appear to have taken personal trips at the university’s expense, Chancellor Holden Thorp said Monday.

Thorp said Kupec, the vice chancellor for university advancement, offered his resignation Sunday night after Thorp told Kupec a review of his travel with Tami Hansbrough, the divorced mother of former UNC star basketball player Tyler Hansbrough, showed trips that did not appear to be university related. Thorp said those trips appear to have included destinations where her other son, Ben Hansbrough, then a star basketball player at Notre Dame, was playing, but Thorp did not say how many.

“Last night I told Matt what I had been finding and I was going to have to do a thorough investigation of his travel, and he offered his resignation,” Thorp said, adding he accepted it.

“It was difficult because Matt has been such a great person for the university and has raised billions of dollars for us,” Thorp added, “but I had to share with him what we had been finding and it didn’t look good and that it’s likely that this sort of personally driven travel was unacceptable, and we are going to need to do a pretty thorough investigation of it.”

The personnel changes and internal investigation involving the mother of one of UNC’s most popular basketball players come amid a yearlong academic fraud investigation that also has ties to athletics. But Thorp said he did not see the fundraising controversy as being an athletics concern.

Hansbrough on leave

Thorp said Tami Hansbrough, a major gifts officer who earns $95,000 annually, has been placed on administrative leave as that investigation continues. Kupec declined to be interviewed Monday night but released a statement confirming the resignation. He did not provide details but thanked the university for his time there. Hansbrough could not be reached.

The personnel changes give another twist to Hansbrough’s unusual work history at UNC-Chapel Hill. She was originally hired on Dec. 8, 2008, as a fundraiser for the foundation that serves UNC-CH’s dental school.

At the time, her son Tyler, a senior, was beginning his final season on the basketball team, a season that would bring the university a national championship. Tyler Hansbrough was named an All-America and now plays in the NBA.

Thorp confirmed that a dental foundation audit later found that during that championship run, Tami Hansbrough had been traveling to cities in which Tyler Hansbrough was playing basketball. But Thorp said those foundation-paid trips were legitimate because she was raising money for the university, and UNC fans traveling to those games would have been good candidates to make donations.

Compliance office reviews

Thorp said the university’s compliance office reviewed information about the travel for compliance with NCAA regulations.

The audit led to the exit of Hansbrough’s boss at the foundation, Brad Bodager, Thorp confirmed. Attempts to reach Bodager over the past few weeks have been unsuccessful.

In mid-2010, Kupec sought to hire a fundraiser. By then, Kupec was in a relationship with Hansbrough, Thorp said, and Thorp had heard that she might be interested in the job. When Thorp learned that she would be reporting to Kupec in the new job, Thorp told Kupec he could not hire her because it would violate the university’s nepotism policy since they were in a relationship.

The position disappeared and was never filled. A short time later, another fundraising position surfaced, only this time it reported to Winston Crisp, who is the vice chancellor for student affairs. Thorp said he had supported the position being created.

After what Thorp said was a proper job search with multiple candidates, Crisp hired Hansbrough for the job. But Hansbrough traveled regularly with Kupec, who separated from his wife in October 2009. The marriage ended two years later, Orange County records show.

The divorce papers indicate that Kupec had committed “marital misconduct” according to North Carolina law. Kupec first joined the university as a fundraiser in 1992 and became the vice chancellor for university advancement in 1995. He made a $349,800 annual salary.

Tami Hansbrough is divorced from Tyler and Ben Hansbrough’s father.

Concerns about travel

Thorp said he began hearing concerns regarding Kupec’s and Hansbrough’s travel weeks ago and initiated an investigation.

The News & Observer sought to obtain a copy of the dental foundation audit and related expense records four weeks ago, but the foundation’s new director, Paul Gardner, said they were not public record because the foundation is a nonprofit and not a public agency. He forwarded The N&O’s request to UNC-CH’s legal department, which so far has not provided information.

Past and current members of the dental foundation either said they knew nothing about the audit or declined to comment. But one board member, Dr. Bettie McKaig, a Raleigh dentist, said Hansbrough had been a good fundraiser for the foundation.

Last week, The N&O contacted Thorp and asked him about the audit, Kupec’s relationship with Hansbrough and how she got hired. Thorp said he could not talk about the matter then, but called The N&O early Monday evening and confirmed several details.

Kupec’s statement

Kupec said in his statement that “I have been privileged to have worked with incredibly talented faculty, students, administrators and staff. I have worked with gifted Chancellors. But most of all, I have been fortunate to work with a score of passionate alumni and friends who love this University and who have paved the way through their generosity to make Carolina a true gem.

“I will miss you all but in my heart I will always be a part of the Carolina family.”

Kupec said he was proud to have led two major fundraising campaigns – the $440 million Bicentennial Campaign for Carolina and the $2.38 billion raised during the Carolina First Campaign. Overall, he said, he raised $4 billion for the university.

Kupec played quarterback for Carolina from 1976 through 1979 and set or broke 19 passing records, according to his university biography.

Staff writer Amanda James contributed to this report.

Kane: 919-829-4861

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