Fred Eshelman leaves UNC board one year early

07/22/2014 6:05 PM

07/22/2014 6:07 PM

Fred Eshelman, a Wilmington pharmaceutical executive, political donor and UNC-Chapel Hill benefactor, has stepped down from the UNC system's Board of Governors a year early.

Eshelman quietly left the board effective June 30. His term had been due to end June 30, 2015.

In a letter to Peter Hans, outgoing board chairman, Eshelman wrote that it was time for him to devote more time to other matters.

"Despite setbacks related to state funding, I believe that we have moved the ball forward under the leadership of you and President Ross," he wrote in the letter to Hans.

Eshelman, along with Ross, spearheaded the UNC system's strategic plan last year, which aimed to raise the state's degree attainment rate, make campuses more efficient and push game-changing research. While the legislature took UNC up on its efficiency measures, it has not come through with funding for the plan.

Eshelman was outspoken about his frustration with the lack of funding. "We did identify the savings, and they took the savings, which we were supposed to be able to reinvest," he said in The N&O last month.

That was unfortunate, he said at the time, adding that the university system is "the biggest economic engine we have in this state."

Eshelman founded the contract research firm PPD in Wilmington and is the founding chairman of Furiex Pharmaceuticals. He has given more than $35 million to alma mater UNC-CH's pharmacy school, which bears his name.

He is also a prolific political donor, giving mostly to conservative causes and Republican candidates in recent years. He was the major financial supporter of RightChange.com, a conservative political action committee that poured money into campaigns in 2010.

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