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Phil Kirk Accepts Appointment at Catawba College

March 30, 2006

Category: Alumni, Faculty


Phil KirkCatawba College Alumnus and Trustee Phil Kirk has accepted a position at his alma mater as Vice President of External Relations. According to College President Dr. Robert Knott, Kirk's appointment becomes effective July 1.

Kirk, a native of Rowan County, is currently completing a short-term assignment at N.C. State University as special assistant to the dean of N.C. State's College of Management.

Earlier this year, he left his post as president and chief executive officer of North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry (NCCBI), one of the state's most powerful lobbying groups, and as publisher of the North Carolina magazine after 16 years of service. He serves that organization now as president emeritus.

"We are delighted that Phil has agreed to join us here at Catawba College," says Knott. "His reputation, contacts, and experience in both business and education and his breadth of knowledge about our institution will serve us well as we strive to make substantive connections between our academic programs and the broader community. We are excited about his joining our efforts to advance Catawba College at this time."

Kirk retired in 2003 as chairman of the N.C. State Board of Education, after five and a half years of service, making him the second-longest serving chairman in that Board's history. During his tenure in that post, he visited all of North Carolina's 117 school systems and 750 of its schools. He worked to maintain and enhance public school initiatives in accountability and worked to improve salaries and working conditions for the state's educators. Today, he serves this Board as chairman emeritus.  

Early in his career, he was a newspaper reporter and a public school teacher of English and journalism in the Salisbury City Schools before joining state government. In 1970, the people of Rowan County elected him to the N.C. State Senate, and he became its youngest member in state history at that time. He later served as chief of staff for N.C. Governors Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin, and for U.S. Senator Jim Broyhill. He also served two governors as Secretary of the N.C. Department of Human Resources. Additionally, Kirk has chaired two of the largest bond campaigns in N.C. history; one in 1996 which raised $2.75 billion for K-12 schools and roads, and one in 2000 which raised $3.1 billion for the UNC system, community colleges, and UNC TV.

Known for his quick wit, jovial spirit and eloquent notes and letters, Kirk is very civic-minded, and serves or has served as a member of more than 40 boards, commissions, and organizations. He serves as a trustee of both Catawba and Meredith Colleges and N.C. Baptist Hospital, as a member of the Visiting International Faculty Program Board of Directors, the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Foundation, the UNC TV Board of Directors, the National Advisory Board of the Friday Institute, the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching Foundation Board, the N.C. Economic Development Board, where he serves on the executive committee, the Watauga Club, the Executives Club, and The Fifty Group of Raleigh. He is former treasurer of the N.C. Partnership for Children (Smart Start), and former vice chairman of the State Board of Community Colleges. He serves as chairman emeritus of the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research. He will resign some of his memberships with his new appointment at Catawba, including his membership on Catawba's Board of Trustees.

His honors and laurels are numerous. On April 3, he will be recognized with the Governor's Winner's Circle Award for his promotion of tourism in N.C., and on April 24, he is scheduled to receive the Razor Walker Award from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for his work on behalf of education and children. In May of 2005, he received the "Power of One" Award at the N.C. Education Ball and was the recipient of the I.E. Ready Award, the top award given by the N.C. Community College System. He has received two "Friends of Education" awards from the Professional Educators of North Carolina and the N.C. Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, and was honored for his outstanding public service with the Holderness-Weaver Award given by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 2002, the Central N.C. Boy Scout Council tapped him as the recipient of its inaugural award, N.C. Citizen of the Year. Catawba honored him with its distinguished Alumnus Award in 1975, with an honorary doctorate in 1996, with its O.B. Michael Award in 1998, and with an Exemplary Service Award in 2001. East Carolina University has named him an "Honorary Alumnus" and he is also a member of the ECU Educators Hall of Fame.

Kirk is the son of Geneva Bostian Kirk and the late Phillip J. Kirk Sr., both natives of Rowan County. He and his wife, the former Margaret Simmons, have four daughters and five grandchildren.

For more information, contact Tonia Black-Gold, Catawba College Communications Officer, at tblackgo@catawba.edu or 704-637-4393.