Board of Trustees

Mark Lanier Announces Plans to Retire in December 2023 

UNCW’s Mark Lanier has announced his plan to retire in December 2023, closing out a campus leadership career that began 31 years ago. Lanier, assistant to the chancellor and assistant secretary to the UNCW Board of Trustees, has served six chancellors. 

“Mark Lanier has cared deeply about UNCW, our students and our community for more than three decades. He has quietly been a part of many of the university’s outstanding achievements over many years,” Chancellor Aswani K. Volety said. “Like many UNCW leaders before me, I value his extensive knowledge about the university’s history; his strong connections to business, government and education leaders statewide; and his unwavering confidence in UNCW’s potential for continued success.”  

As UNCW’s legislative liaison, Lanier has played an instrumental role in increasing UNCW’s annual recurring state appropriation from $31 million (FY1991) to $181 million (FY2022). On a per-student basis, UNCW’s state appropriation increased from $4,837 (FY1991) to $11,338 (FY2022). Lanier has also helped secure more than $1 billion in funding to construct and enhance dozens of buildings at UNCW, including the Center for Marine Science, the Shellfish Hatchery, Leutze Hall, the Education Building, McNeill Hall, the Teaching Laboratory Building, the rebuilding of Dobo Hall following Hurricane Florence, and the current Randall Library renovation and expansion.  

He also served as the founding chair of the New Hanover County Partnership for Children (Smart Start), helped develop UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, assisted with the creation of the film studies and creative writing programs at UNCW, advocated for growth of the NC film industry, and helped with the approval process for the university’s first doctoral degree, its first engineering degree and many other programs. Recently, Lanier co-chaired the successful effort by UNCW to obtain the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation from the national Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, announced in November 2022. UNCW is one of only 80 universities to earn the designation. 

Lanier came to UNCW in 1991 from Hampden-Sydney College, where he was an assistant to the president and a lecturer in political science. Previously, while in graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill, he was offered the opportunity to join then-UNC System President C.D. Spangler’s staff, where he worked closely with the UNC Board of Governors. He said he recognized UNCW’s “phenomenal potential” when he toured the university as a part of President Spangler’s staff, and he was eager to return to Wilmington as part of his mentor James Leutze’s leadership team.  

“Under various titles, yet always including some version of assistant to the chancellor and assistant secretary for the Board of Trustees, I have focused on governmental relations, board affairs, economic development and the ever-changing ‘other duties as assigned,’” Lanier said with a smile. “I also have had responsibilities over time in the areas of public and media relations, strategic planning, budgeting, endowment management, enrollment management and student success, a primary liaison to the UNC System Office, unofficial university ombudsman and historian.”  

Lanier, known among colleagues for his photographic memory of information contained in stacks and stacks of historic records in his office, looks forward to sharing his expertise with others before his departure. By announcing his plans a year in advance, Lanier hopes to work with his successors, once named, to smooth the transition for Chancellor Volety and the UNCW leadership team.  

“I have had the great pleasure of working closely with six outstanding leaders of UNCW, from the initial 13 years with James R. “Jim” Leutze, now Chancellor Emeritus, through Rosemary DePaolo, Gary Miller, Bill Sederburg, Jose V. “Zito” Sartarelli, and current Chancellor Aswani K. Volety,” he said. “I also have served 26 chairs of the Board of Trustees, over 100 members of the Board of Trustees, over 200 members of the Board of Governors, and several hundred members of the General Assembly. I want to express my deep appreciation for and gratitude to the members, past and present, of the state legislature, university boards, my colleagues in administration, the faculty and staff, the student body, alumni, and the entire Seahawk family who have made my work both worthwhile and enjoyable.” 

Lanier, a native North Carolinian, noted that he has been a part of great teams at UNCW. He thanked assistant Ann Freeman for her teamwork over the past 31 years, and credited his UNCW colleagues, his family, and friends across the state and nation for his success.  

“I extend my sincerest appreciation to everyone who has been a part of my most fortunate career, serving UNCW and my home state,” Lanier said. “To paraphrase the state toast, ‘Here’s to the campus of the longleaf pine, the summer land where the sun doth shine, where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great, here’s to UNCW and to the Old North State!’ Go Seahawks!” 

Career Highlights 

-- As part of the senior leadership team, played an important role in UNCW’s enrollment growth from 6,441 students (in 1990-91) to approximately 18,000 today, while increasing entering SAT scores from 913 (Fall 1991) to 1298 (Fall 2022) and improving six-year graduation rates from 53.9% (1991 cohort) to 83.9% (2016 cohort). The number of degrees awarded increased from approximately 1,100 in 1991 to more than 5,100 in 2021. 

-- Obtained recurring special appropriations for outreach programs in the Watson College of Education ($325,000), for oyster research ($500,000), for marine biotechnology ($2 million), and for funding equity in two different decades ($2.5 million in 1997; $7 million in 2007). 

Funding for Capital and Infrastructure  

-- Obtained more than $1 billion of capital and infrastructure funding and authority for UNCW, including: 

- State legislative funding for the first three buildings on the Myrtle Grove campus (the Center for Marine Science, Operations Wing and the Shellfish Hatchery); 

- On the university’s main campus, state legislative funding for Leutze Hall, the Education Building, McNeill Hall, the Teaching Laboratory Building, modernization of Sartarelli Hall, rebuilding of Dobo Hall, Hurricane Florence recovery, and the expansion and renovation of Randall Library that is now in progress, as well as more than $100 million in repair and renovation funding for other buildings/infrastructure, and over $280 million in self-liquidating authority (for residence halls, dining halls, the Fisher University Union and Student Center, the student recreation center, recreation fields, athletic facilities, parking lots and decks, and more); 

-- Helped lead three statewide bond issues for university capital projects, resulting in more than $192 million for UNCW; in 1993, for initial construction of Dobo Hall and an addition to Bear Hall; in 2000, for the Cultural Arts Building, Congdon Hall, additional funding for the Education Building, and numerous modernizations/renovations; and in 2016, for Veterans Hall.  

Community Engagement and Economic Development Highlights 

-- Significantly strengthened UNCW’s partnerships with and transfer admissions from community colleges; also significantly strengthened military partnerships and military-affiliated enrollment. 

-- Worked closely with the business community, chambers of commerce, economic developers, and others to grow the economy in southeastern NC and statewide: 

-- Worked with the NC Biotechnology Center and others to help grow Wilmington’s clinical research and life sciences cluster;  

-- Helped create the film studies and creative writing programs at UNCW and, working with the film studios, the legislature, and others, helped grow the state film industry; 

-- Helped create UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Wilmington and beyond;  

-- Served on advisory boards that have assisted in the growth of the Wilmington International Airport and expansions of the number of carriers serving ILM;  

-- Served on the Cape Fear Workforce Development Board and was recognized in 2022 with a Regional Impact Award by the Cape Fear Council of Governments; 

-- Served as the founding chair of the New Hanover County Partnership for Children (Smart Start), with a focus on improving the availability and quality of early childhood development and childcare. 

-- Co-chaired the successful effort by UNCW to obtain the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation from the national Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, announced in November 2022. UNCW is one of only 80 universities to earn the designation. 

“Other Duties as Assigned” 

-- Assisted the enhancement of the athletic programs at UNCW, resulting in UNCW’s first Colonial Athletic Association championships and the first NCAA men’s basketball tournament appearance; worked closely with others regarding the strong academic performance of UNCW’s student-athletes. 

-- Helped with the planning and execution of three comprehensive fundraising campaigns and secured private gifts for multiple distinguished professorships (which were then matched with state funding).  

-- Helped grow the official UNCW endowment from just over $4 million to $156 million. 

-- Helped with the approval process for the first doctoral program at UNCW (marine biology) and subsequent doctoral programs; helped with the approval process for the first engineering degree at UNCW (coastal engineering). 

-- Was an important part of UNCW’s transition from a master’s/comprehensive university to a doctoral university with high research activity (R2). 

-- While UNCW was a comprehensive university, helped improve UNCW’s rankings among regional universities to as high as 4th among public institutions in the South; once designated an R2 and thus in the national university rankings, UNCW was ranked in the top 100 public national universities, joining only UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State University from the UNC System. 

-- Served as a founding member of, and as UNCW’s representative to, the UNC Economic Transformation Council, UNC Federal Relations Council, UNC State Relations Council, and UNC Board Professionals. 

-- Served on many UNC System special committees, including the task force that created the enrollment funding formula in use from 1998 through 2022. 

-- Helped create and grow the National Association of Presidential Assistants in Higher Education; was UNCW’s primary representative for multiple national associations and organizations, especially in federal government relations. 

-- Working with Congress and federal agencies, obtained significant funding for various UNCW programs, including finfish aquaculture, coastal ocean research and monitoring (CORMP), the MARBIONC building at Myrtle Grove, disaster-resistant universities, and more. 

-- Served as the chair or a member of innumerable search committees that brought some of the best and brightest people in higher education to UNCW.

Mark Lanier