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Whether Cone's gender worked against her becoming chancellor is a question that has been addressed by many in the university community. Dan Morrill, who began as professor of history in 1963, provides a perspective that illustrates how much times have changed in this regard. Noting that the events must be placed in historical context, Morrill admits that he was probably happy in 1966 when Colvard became chancellor, which he later referred to as the “demotion” of Cone. While his feelings about the matter have changed, he says he was somewhat embarrassed to have a woman in charge in 1966. Kenneth Sanford, former director of public information and publications at UNC Charlotte and author of Charlotte and UNC Charlotte: Growing Up Together, is also among those who believed Cone's sex was a factor in the decision.

But sexism was not the only possible influence on the selection of chancellor. Many who worked closely with Cone considered her hands-on, individualized approach an immense strength in many respects, but a weakness for a university chancellor. Arnold King, vice president of the University of North Carolina from 1964 to 1972, believed Colvard's earned degree and university knowledge provided security and respect, but he also believed Cone’s lack of ability to delegate was a major reason she was not selected. Cone was known to spend hours working with just one student at Charlotte College, a school with hundreds of students; this could be problematic at a university with thousands of students.

Yearbook photos of Bonnie Cone and Dean Colvard, 1966

Dean Colvard and Bonnie Cone as administrators, pictured in the yearbook, 1966.

Such direct attention carried over into all of her administrative roles. Loy Witherspoon, founding chair of religious studies and former faculty president of UNC Charlotte, notes that Cone managed faculty by example. Cone hand-picked her faculty and knew every individual at Charlotte College, but as universities grow, hiring faculty becomes weighed down in bureaucracy and departmental politics. Morrill notes that Colvard was a team player and knew how the university system worked.

Jack Claiborne, former student and editor of the Charlotte Observer, explains why he thought Cone was not selected as chancellor, recorded 2012.