Former UNC President Tom Ross has been named president of the Volcker Alliance, a nonpartisan organization aimed at rebuilding public trust in government.
The New York-based nonprofit, launched in 2013 by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, announced the appointment Tuesday. Ross will start the job July 1. He will live in Charlotte and commute to New York, he said. He and his wife have a daughter and grandchildren in Charlotte.
Ross, a Democrat, was president of the UNC system for five years until his ouster last year by the Republican-majority UNC Board of Governors in what was widely seen as a politically motivated action. Before that, he was president of Davidson College and chief executive of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Inc. For the majority of his career, he was a judge and director of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts.
He is now serving as the first Terry Sanford Distinguished Fellow at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, where he has been working on a project on bipartisan redistricting. He will continue in that role after joining the Volcker Alliance, but will resign his faculty position at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government in June.
The alliance looks for ways to make government more effective, primarily in the way new policies are implemented, Ross said Tuesday in an interview. The organization has examined each of the 50 states’ budgets to see whether they are truly balanced and which states have the best budgeting practices. On the federal level, the organization has examined financial regulations and offered solutions in areas that may represent emerging risks.
The alliance also aims to work with universities to encourage young people to go into public service, Ross said.
“You know there was a time, certainly earlier in my life, in which people saw it as a great opportunity to serve their government and their country,” Ross said. “That seems to have waned a good deal. Part of what we want to try to do is think of ways that we can expose some of our great students to public service – what the opportunities are, what the diversity of those opportunities are and how enriching that life can be.”
Most of Ross’ career has been in public service. “We watch around the world at governments coming under great attack and fire and evaporating and changing hands and not being stable,” he said. “Though we’ve had a great history, I think if we don’t restore confidence in government, if we don’t have a sense of commitment to serving our country and our government, then we are at risk. So I want to do my part.”
Since leaving UNC, Ross also joined the the corporate board of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, a Canadian drugmaker. The struggling company has been under scrutiny over its strategy of acquiring and raising the price of drugs. Valeant acquired two Triangle companies – Salix Pharmaceuticals and Sprout Pharmaceuticals.
Ross said he’s also looking forward to working with Volcker, 89, who was chairman of the Federal Reserve under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and who was chairman of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board under President Barack Obama.
In a news release announcing Ross’ appointment, Volcker said: “The strains and pressures on government at all levels are plain to see. Tom Ross’s broad experience in education, government, and philanthropy will be brought to bear on all our efforts to improve government performance.”