Thomas W. Ross, Sr. Visionary Leader Award

UNC President Thomas Ross

The University of North Carolina Thomas W. Ross, Sr. Visionary Leader Award was created in 2015 to celebrate a member of the UNC Staff Assembly who has proven to be an exemplary leader and one who inspires a shared vision on their campus and throughout the whole of the UNC Staff Assembly. This individual’s accomplishments are consistent with the leadership characteristics exemplified by Thomas W. Ross, Sr. during his tenure as UNC System President. President Ross modeled the way for others to follow; inspired shared visions of success for students, staff and faculty within the UNC System; challenged, managed and overcame processes and difficult budgetary situations. By encouraging others to act and allowing them the freedom to do so, President Ross showcased his heartfelt support of the campus communities as well as those who worked closely with him at UNC General Administration.

This award is presented annually in recognition of a UNC Staff Assembly delegate who embodies these characteristics, exhibits outstanding leadership on their campus, and demonstrates leadership and engagement in the UNC Staff Assembly.

Public Service and Leadership in the University of North Carolina

“The UNC Board of Governors has a fundamental duty to establish the University’s strategic directions, articulate an overall vision for the UNC system, and oversee the alignment of this vision with institutional resources, investments, and results. The President is responsible for pursuing these goals in concert with our Chancellors, faculty, staff, and students; the University’s affiliate organizations; and the UNC Health Care System.”

Message from President Thomas W. Ross and UNC Board of Governors Chair Peter Hans “Our Time, Our Future: The UNC Compact with North Carolina, Strategic Directions 2013-15”

Selection Criteria

The creativity and leadership impact of a nominee’s achievements are of a magnitude that greatly exceeds the normal accomplishments of Staff Assembly colleagues.

The nominee must exhibit sustained, distinguished and superb leadership achievement by:

    • modeling the way,
    • inspiring a shared vision,
    • challenging the process,
    • enabling others to action and
    • encouraging the hearts of students, staff, faculty and other constituencies on their individual campus, as well as within the UNC Staff Assembly.


For an application to be considered, the nominee must:

    • be a current UNC Staff Assembly delegate OR have completed a term of service in the UNC Staff Assembly within the 12 months immediately preceding the opening of nominations, and
    • be a full-time permanent staff member of a constituent UNC System university.

Nominations must be made by a current UNC Staff Assembly delegate OR a past UNC Staff Assembly delegate who has completed a term of service in the UNC Staff Assembly within the 12 months immediately preceding the opening of nominations.

Nomination Process / Required Items

Nominations should be submitted via the Nomination Form beginning July 1, 2023. All nominations must also include a narrative of why the nominee is deserving of this prestigious award. The deadline for nominations is September 22, 2023. Nominations will be reviewed by the Staff Assembly Vice-Chair, the Thomas W. Ross, Sr. Visionary Leader Award Selection Committee, and the System Office Human Resources. The recipient will be acknowledged at the October Staff Assembly meeting. All questions regarding the award or nomination process should be directed to TWR – Visionary Leader Award Committee Chair.

Previous Award Recipients

Award YearRecipientUniversity / Institution
2022Celeste CorpeningUNC Charlotte
2021Alison JosephWestern Carolina University
2020Mallory SadlerAppalachian State University
2019Jan AlbrechtUNC - Greensboro
2018No AwardNo Award
2017Pam DeGraffenreidWestern Carolina University
2016Susan ColbyNorth Carolina State University