Holden Thorp
Provost of Washington University in St. Louis
In office
July 1, 2013 (2013-07-01) – July 15, 2019
Preceded byEdward S. Macias
Succeeded byBeverly R. Wendland
10th Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
In office
July 1, 2008 – June 30, 2013
Preceded byJames Moeser
Succeeded byCarol Folt
Personal details
Herbert Holden Thorp

(1964-08-16) August 16, 1964 (age 59)
Fayetteville, North Carolina
SpousePatti Thorp
Residence(s)St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
California Institute of Technology
ProfessionCollege administrator, chemist

Herbert Holden Thorp (born August 16, 1964) is an American chemist, professor and entrepreneur. He is a professor of chemistry at George Washington University.[1] He was the tenth chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, assuming the position on July 1, 2008, succeeding James Moeser, and, at age 43, was noted as being among the youngest leaders of a university in the United States.[2][3] At the time of his selection as chancellor, Thorp was the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a Kenan Professor of chemistry at the university. Thorp is a 1986 graduate of UNC; he later earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from California Institute of Technology, and was a postdoctoral associate at Yale University.[4]

In September 2012, Thorp announced his intention to resign following allegations of academic fraud, effective from June 30, 2013, and to return to teaching in the chemistry department at UNC, following a scandal involving the NCAA.[5] Shortly thereafter, in February 2013, he announced his decision to leave the university to take up the job of provost at Washington University in St. Louis.[6] He took over as provost on July 1, 2013, replacing Edward Macias. Thorp stepped down as the provost of Washington University in St. Louis on July 15, 2019.[7]

On August 19, 2019, Thorp was announced as the new editor-in-chief of Science magazine.[8][9] He continues to hold the Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professorship of Chemistry and Medicine at Washington University.[10] In 2023 he became a Professor of Chemistry at George Washington University.[11]

Early life and education

Thorp's father, Herbert Holden "Herb" Thorp (d. 1996), was a native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.[12] He was an attorney who earned an undergraduate degree from UNC in 1954 and a law degree, also from UNC, in 1956.[12][13] His mother, Olga "Bo" Thorp (née Bernardin, b. 1933),[14] a 1956 UNC graduate, is a native of Columbia, South Carolina. Her parents were Italian immigrants who died when she was 15.[13][15][16] Both of Thorp's parents were involved in creating Fayetteville Little Theater, now known as the Cape Fear Regional Theater, in 1962.[16] Herb Thorp was its first president, and Bo Thorp was its creative director for 50 years until stepping down in April 2012.[12][17][18]

Thorp's parents moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1960[12] and Thorp was born there on August 16, 1964. He spent much of his youth involved with the theater, performing in productions led by his mother, and met his future wife, Patti Worden, in 1974 at the theater.[19] He attended St. Patrick Catholic School, a private middle school.[3] He is remembered as a good student who finished the algebra textbook by Thanksgiving, and a geometry book the following Easter.[3]

In summer 1981, at age 17, while studying guitar at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Thorp won first place and a $500 prize in a northeast regional competition to solve a Rubik's Cube puzzle.[13][19][20] His motivation for entering the competition was to earn money to buy jazz records. Winning the competition also earned him a trip to the national competition, which was shown on the television program That's Incredible!. He came fifth in the national competition, and won first place again in a regional competition the following year, in Charlotte, North Carolina.[20]

After graduating from Terry Sanford High School in 1982,[17] Thorp attended the only university he had applied to, the University of North Carolina.[3][13] He was a pre-medical student initially, and later turned to chemistry and academia, earning a BS degree in 1986. He completed doctoral work in three years instead of the normal five at the California Institute of Technology in 1989, earning a Ph.D. under Harry B. Gray at the age of 24.[19][21][22] He completed post-doctoral work with Gary Brudvig at Yale in 1990.[23]

In 1991, Thorp began teaching as an associate professor of chemistry at North Carolina State University.[23]

Research and entrepreneurship

Thorp was awarded a Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1991 by the National Science Foundation, which provided $100,000 of research funding annually for five years.[23][24] Later that year, he was one of 20 people awarded a grant by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the $500,000 fellowship was for research on compounds used in genetic therapy. Both grants were for research to develop cancer and AIDS drugs as alternatives to chemotherapy.[23][24]

In 1996, Thorp co-founded the biotechnology company Alderaan Diagnostics, later renamed Xanthon, Inc., to commercialize a technology he co-developed. The technology involved using electricity to test compounds that could later become new drugs. It was intended to turn a process that previously took months into an electronic process that would instead take hours. In 2001, Thorp was recognized by Fortune Small Business as a Small Business Innovator for the work that led to the founding of the company.[25] Xanthon raised several rounds of venture capital, totaling $25 million, before closing in 2002, after technical glitches had delayed release of its commercial product and it could not find further funding.[26][27][28]

In 2005, Thorp co-founded Viamet Pharmaceuticals, another biotechnology company, to develop treatments for cancer and other diseases.[28][29] It raised $4 million in venture capital funding in 2007, and an additional $18 million in 2009.[30] He is no longer involved in the operation of the company.[31]

Thorp is a member of the scientific advisory board of Ohmx, a biotechnology firm based on technology developed by his doctoral mentor, Harry B. Gray.[32] He was previously a venture partner at Hatteras Venture Partners, co-founded by his brother Clay.[33][34] He gave up that role after being named chancellor of UNC in 2008, and his equity stake in the firm was transferred to a blind trust.[35]

Thorp is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.[36]

University of North Carolina

Thorp returned to his alma mater in 1993 to teach, rising from visiting assistant professor to professor in six years.[26] In 1998, he received a Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.[37]

In 2001, Thorp became the director of the Morehead Planetarium, part of UNC. That fall, he co-led a student focus group responsible for exploring and providing feedback on the university's consideration of a branch campus of the Kenan–Flagler Business School in Qatar. In 2005, he was named a Kenan Professor and chair of the chemistry department of the College of Arts and Sciences.[38] He led the 2005 committee that selected the book as recommended reading for that fall's incoming freshmen, Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story, by a North Carolina native Timothy B. Tyson.[39]

He became the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2007, after a nationwide search.[3] A year later, he was named chancellor of the University after being nominated by Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina System, and unanimously chosen by the Board of Governors.[40]

In 2013, Thorp resigned from the position of chancellor amid allegations of widespread academic fraud, which were later outlined in the Wainstein Report.[41] The Wainstein Report describes the findings of an independent investigation conducted by the former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein. It describes abuses spanning over 18 years, which included "no-show" classes that had little to no faculty oversight. Approximately half of those enrolled in these classes were athletes.


Beginning with his first theater appearance at age 3 in Carnival!,[13][21] Thorp has been involved with many aspects of performance. He worked in lighting for productions at the theater company directed by his mother and later took on the music. He took piano and guitar lessons and formed a garage band as a teenager.[42] While doing post-doctoral work, he wrote some music for the Yale Cabaret and a musical production for the River Renaissance on the Cape Fear River.[16] He has written several musicals and has played piano with his local church.[13] He has also played with Equinox, a local jazz band.[42]

In 1998, Thorp was the musical director for a performance of The Sound of Music, in which his wife played Maria von Trapp, and as a result, missed the ceremony at which the Tanner award recipients were recognized.[21]

Awards and publications

Thorp was named a Distinguished Young Alumnus in 2002 by the UNC General Alumni Association.[33][43]

In 2010, Thorp and Buck Goldstein wrote a book on entrepreneurship called Engines of Innovation, in which they insist that the world's biggest problems can be solved through innovation at large research universities. They also created a website to encourage innovation on college campuses.[44]


Thorp has been married to Patti Worden since 1991.[23] They have two children.


  1. ^ "Noted Scientist Holden Thorp Joins Chemistry Faculty | GW Today | The George Washington University". GW Today. Retrieved June 9, 2023.
  2. ^ Ferreri, Eric; Stancil, Jan (May 8, 2008). "Holden Thorp named UNC chancellor". The News and Observer. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e Futch, Michael (May 15, 2008). "Holden Thorp: The formula for success". The Fayetteville Observer.
  4. ^ "Holden Thorp, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences". UNC College of Arts and Sciences. February 2007. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
    - "H. Holden Thorp: Kenan Professor of Chemistry; Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences". UNC Department of Chemistry. Archived from the original on December 5, 2002. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
  5. ^ Auerbach, Nicole (September 17, 2012). "UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp to step down amid scandal". USA Today. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  6. ^ Givens, Steve (February 18, 2013). "UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp named WUSTL provost" (Press release). WUSTL. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
    - "Thorp named provost at Washington University in St. Louis". UNC Campus Update. February 18, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
  7. ^ "Former UNC Chancellor Thorp steps down as Washington University provost". The News Observer.
  8. ^ Julie Hail Flory (August 19, 2019). "Thorp named editor-in-chief of Science". The Source. Washington University in St. Louis. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
  9. ^ Brainard, Jeffrey (August 19, 2019). "AAAS names chemist Holden Thorp as editor-in-chief of Science". Science. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
  10. ^ "Holden Thorp". Washington University Arts & Sciences. March 13, 2019. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  11. ^ "Thorp, Holden | Department of Chemistry | Columbian College of Arts & Sciences | The George Washington University". Department of Chemistry | Columbian College of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved October 23, 2023.
  12. ^ a b c d Reese, Pat (December 13, 1996). "Thorp Dies at 64". The Fayetteville Observer.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Egan, Bruce. "The Art of the Possible" (PDF). Carolina Alumni Review: 20–31. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 15, 2012. Retrieved June 28, 2011.
  14. ^ "Bo Thorp (b. 1933)". The Fayetteville Observer. March 25, 2004.
  15. ^ "Good Ol' Girls". UNC-TV. Archived from the original on April 4, 2010. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  16. ^ a b c Thrasher, Alice (November 5, 1989). "Bo Thorp, First Lady of Community Theater". The Fayetteville Observer.
  17. ^ a b Johnson, Corey G. (October 8, 2008). "Thorp goes the extra step in return home". The Fayetteville Observer.
  18. ^ Mullen, Rodger (April 30, 2012). "Bo Thorp steps down as artistic director for Cape Fear Regional Theatre". The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved September 17, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ a b c Ferreri, Eric; Stancill, Jane (May 10, 2008). "In Thorp, UNC has 'a complete package'". News & Observer. p. B1.
  20. ^ a b Thrasher, Alice (April 2, 2007). "He's got the solution". The Fayetteville Observer.
  21. ^ a b c Barnes, Greg (February 14, 1998). "Quick Fame Isn't What Drives Him". The Fayetteville Observer.
  22. ^ "Holden Thorp". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  23. ^ a b c d e Mather, Tom (October 12, 1991). "Marriage, grant grace young chemist's life". The News and Observer.
  24. ^ a b Walker, Suzanne (September 21, 1991). "Researcher Gets Second Grant in Year". The Fayetteville Observer.
  25. ^ Smith, Lee; Dreyfuss, Joel; Grimes, Brad; Keeney, Jennifer; Pendleton, Jennifer; Solomon, Karen; Spanbauer, Scott; Roberts-Witt, Sarah; Witt, Louise (May 1, 2001). Fortune Small Business. Vol. 11, no. 4. p. 44. ((cite news)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ a b Williams, Allison (October 20, 2001). "Holden Thorp's world of discovery". The Fayetteville Observer.
  27. ^ Vollmer, Sabine (September 30, 2002). "Only Xanthon's technology left". Triangle Business Journal. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  28. ^ a b Linker, Adam (June 16, 2008). "New UNC chancellor Thorp doesn't plan to sever business ties". Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  29. ^ "Founders". Viamet. Archived from the original on January 5, 2009. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  30. ^ "Biotech raises $4 million". News & Observer. June 8, 2007. p. D6.
    - Cox, Jonathan B. (July 8, 2009). "Drugmaker Viamet raises $18 million". News & Observer.
    - "Viamet Pharmaceuticals raises $18M". Triangle Business Journal. July 9, 2009. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  31. ^ Ranii, David (January 20, 2011). "Viamet taps former FDA official". News & Observer.
  32. ^ "Overview". Ohmx Corporation. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
    - "Scientific Advisory Board". Ohmx Corporation. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  33. ^ a b Brown, David E. "Holden Thorp '86 Named 10th Chancellor". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  34. ^ "Clay Thorp, General Partner". Hatteras Venture Partners. Archived from the original on October 14, 2011. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  35. ^ Coletta, Chris (August 26, 2008). "UNC chancellor cuts ties with Hatteras Venture Partners". Triangle Business Journal.
  36. ^ "Holden Thorp, Ph.D." UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Archived from the original on March 26, 2012. Retrieved June 28, 2011.
  37. ^ "Previous Winners – Tanner, Friday, Sanders, Sitterson, and Johnston Awards for Excellence in Teaching". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Archived from the original on October 3, 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
    - "Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Archived from the original on October 3, 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  38. ^ "Thorp to lead chemistry department, become Kenan professor in July". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. February 10, 2005. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  39. ^ Stancill, Jane (January 20, 2005). "UNC recommends a book; In it, a North Carolina native recounts a racial slaying and the uprising that followed". News & Observer. p. B6.
  40. ^ "Dr. Holden Thorp Director" (PDF). Institute for Defense & Business. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 7, 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  41. ^ Walstein, Kenneth L; Jay, A Joseph; Kukowski, Colleen Depman (October 16, 2014). "Investigation of Irregular Classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill". Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft L. Retrieved June 4, 2022.
  42. ^ a b Ferreri, Eric; Stancill, Jane (May 14, 2008). "New UNC Chancellor a Renaissance Man - His Successes Range From Rubik's Cube to Research, Science to Jazz". The Charlotte Observer. p. 8B.
  43. ^ "Awards". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  44. ^ "Engines of Innovation". Revving up the Entrepreneurial University. Archived from the original on September 13, 2012. Retrieved March 29, 2011.