CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A leading U.S. expert on sport-related concussions was named Wednesday as the interim head of North Carolina's flagship public university, replacing the campus leader forced out in a dispute over the future of a prominent Confederate statue.
College of Arts and Sciences Dean Kevin Guskiewicz was elevated to the top job at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by statewide university president Bill Roper. Roper, who is temporarily heading North Carolina's 16-university system, had said the Chapel Hill school's interim chancellor would hold that job for as much as 18 months until a nationwide search found a permanent replacement.
Guskiewicz replaces Carol Folt, who left Jan. 31 after the university system's governors forced her out early. Governors reacted after Folt unilaterally ordered the removal of the stone base formerly topped by the statue of a Confederate soldier, which protesters branded a racist symbol. Demonstrators tore down the metal statue in August.
Guskiewicz is a neuroscientist whose innovations on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sport-related concussions earned him a MacArthur "genius grant" in 2011. His research has influenced concussion guidelines for the NFL, the NCAA and sports-medicine organizations, university officials said.
He co-directs the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, which studies and treats civilian athletes and military personnel suffering from brain injuries.
Roper said Guskiewicz met his requirements as a leader of stature who knows the Chapel Hill school's work of educating nearly 20,000 students, knows North Carolina and is ready to advance the university's mission.
"Kevin is an outstanding researcher, innovator, and strategic thinker," Roper said in a statement.
As dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since January 2016, Guskiewicz has led the largest academic institution at UNC-Chapel Hill. He had been overseeing a major revamping of the school's general education curriculum for the first time in 12 years.