Colvard as Chancellor
Bonnie Cone served as acting chancellor of the newly established University of North Carolina at Charlotte with the understanding that a permanent chancellor would be selected. Since Cone had been director and president of Charlotte College, and was already considered the founder of the university, many expected her to be named chancellor. Instead, Dean W. Colvard—the president of Mississippi State University and a North Carolina native who had a deep history with NC State—was the final choice for the first official chancellor. This decision sparked public controversy at the time and speculation about the choice of Colvard continues today.
In 1965 Cone’s work as founder of the university earned her a featured profile in Time entitled “The School Miss Bonnie Built.” The magazine had no problem embracing the heart of the chancellor controversy and downplaying it at the same time:
With its future growth seemingly assured, the big question for the campus now is: Will Miss Bonnie, who is acting Chancellor, be appointed permanently? Although her sex and her lack of an earned doctorate might be considered handicaps by some, Miss Bonnie, now 58, is unconcerned.
While it is true that Cone never obtained an earned doctorate, as Colvard had, by 1965 she had three honorary doctorates and was to receive seven more. It is also worth noting that at this time other chancellors lacking earned doctorates led universities in the North Carolina system, but there had never been a female chancellor. Yet controversies rarely have straightforward explanations, which is illustrated by people who knew Cone. Their perspectives are offered here.