Nancy Dole, Carolina Population Center's Deputy Director for Research Services, retires after 39 years at CPC

Originally posted September 20, 2018.

After 39 years at the Carolina Population Center, Nancy Dole retires on October 1.  

Have any of CPC's current staff worked at CPC for longer than Nancy? No!   

It is difficult to imagine CPC without Nancy. She has been critical in the development and evolution of the Center as we see it today. Starting at CPC as a staff member in 1979, Nancy has played an array of roles, culminating in the "Indispensable Major Domo" who forged a path through the wilderness of design, construction, and upfitting, to lead us to our new building.        

Nancy has been involved in the proposals for and organization of many research projects, she has organized and led the research services units, and she has published 63 refereed journal articles and made dozens of presentations at PAA and elsewhere. For many Fellows and staff, Nancy is the port of first call, whether it's how to approach a tricky problem or just who to ask at CPC or elsewhere on campus for help.  

Nancy's reputation extends way beyond faculty and staff at CPC. Year after year, CPC is one of the top three research centers at UNC in terms of funding, and it has a national and international reputation for the research it produces. Nancy Dole has played an enormous and sustained role in CPC's success. 

But here are some things you might not know about Nancy: 

  • Nancy and her husband John Runkle have been together since they were in high school in Cincinnati
  • One of Nancy's first big efforts at CPC was working on a pilot project to study 1000+ couples in Zimbabwe as they transitioned from childhood to sexual debut
  • J. Richard (Dick) Udry - CPC Director at the time - asked Nancy to determine how to ship a freezer to Zimbabwe for the project. And she did!
  • Nancy has been involved in a parade of other ambitious, interdisciplinary survey projects, many of which pioneered extensive specimen and biomarker collection
  • One of her favorite Carrboro restaurants is Provence
  • She hates beets
  • She loves anything French and might spend a few months in France once retired
  • Her passion for gardening and culinary skills is second to none
  • She added "amuse bouche" to our vocabulary

Comments from Nancy's colleagues: 

"She was always the ultimate problem solver -- practical, great at dealing with people (even the difficult ones), a calm adult presence, and very clever in figuring out a way to accomplish what the study required."
--Barry Popkin, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Nutrition 

"Nancy is a wonderful colleague who was the glue for our team including keeping us to task and hosting several PIN team parties at her house."
-- Anna Maria Siega-Riz, Jeannette Lancaster Alumna Professor of Nursing, University of Virginia 

"I have had the absolute pleasure of working with Nancy over the past 3+ years. She has provided the whole CPC, including myself, with fabulous leadership in a context of the highest ethical standards. Perhaps more than anything, I trust Nancy ... she offers first-rate advice drawn from many years of administrative and research experience. And she gets things done. I offer my sincerest thank you to her for her leadership, guidance, high standards, and commitment to doing things the right way."
-- Bob Hummer, Howard W. Odum Distinguished Professor of Sociology 

"Invariably I was impressed by Nancy's many contributions to CPC which were embellished by her diligence, intelligence, integrity and pleasant manner.  She is among those who helped create CPC as the premiere interdisciplinary and interdepartmental university research organization anywhere among the many I have known."
-- Karl Bauman, CPC Fellow Emeritus and UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Emeritus 

"I believe the CPC is without equal as a leading research center of international prominence, and one of the reasons is due to the quality of leadership in research services provided by Nancy Dole."
-- Glen H. Elder, Jr., Odum Distinguished Research Professor

"Thank you for your support and advice over the years on just about every aspect of my research projects! Whether the issues were big or small, or the work was taking place far from home or back at UNC, you were always ready to help and develop ways to make good things happen. Thanks for making CPC such a collegial and productive place!"
-- Harsha Thirumurthy, Associate Professor, Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine, U. Pennsylvania  

"Nancy Dole is the ultimate research fixer. From the first time I needed to write a job ad and conduct interviews for hiring a project manager (something my PhD so did not prepare me for), to last minute panics over data collection emergencies, to needing a voice of reason in the midst of designing projects and writing proposals, Nancy was always there. Her vast experience across many projects meant she almost always knew just what to do, and if she didn't, she knew someone who knew someone to get the job done. Nancy has always had all of our best interests at heart. She truly cares about the center, the people, and the projects, and she has done so much to keep everyone at the top of their game. I greatly appreciate and will never forget the lengths to which she has gone to help assure we all succeed."
-- Lisa D. Pearce, Professor of Sociology 

"The CPC is so successful, in part, because of the tremendous support that it provides to its faculty fellows, and Nancy has been a key part of this for over 30 years. Nancy is responsible for a substantial portion of the CPC infrastructure and is the person to go to within the CPC if you have a problem and need some creative thinking and swift action to solve it."
-- Andrew Johns, Sr Associate Vice Chancellor for Research 

"Nancy is finishing 39 years of service to the Carolina Population Center, which means she started at -5 years of age.  She's remained young throughout!  Nancy's dedication to the Carolina Population Center has been energetic, boundless and steadfast.  Now it needs to learn to survive without her-and she without it! 

I am sure Nancy has ever so responsibly groomed her replacements and distributed all her duties to the 100s of CPC staff it will take to replace her.  Whether she will be able to fill the hole in her professional heart that CPC has occupied for 39 years is another question.  It is a good thing she is going on a long road trip with John so that she won't be trying to drive to University Square each day. 

I think the biggest challenge ahead of CPC is to prepare, without Nancy's fine touch, those multi-million dollar project proposals and budgets that often require coordination across many moving faculty parts. Nancy's intellect, skills and level headedness made it possible for many more of these large-scale studies and projects to come CPC's way than might otherwise have been possible. And she did all these while getting her PhD in Epidemiology and publishing journal articles! 

So, did academia and CPC make a better Nancy or did Nancy make a better CPC and academia?  The answer is obvious."
-- Amy Tsui, CPC 1982-2001, Senior Scholar and Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 

"With kindness and respect, and without me really noticing, Nancy coached me in how to lead the Center.  The lessons I learned carried me to the Vice Chancellor's office and are with me still."
-- Barbara Entwisle, former UNC Vice Chancellor for Research 

"Nancy's ability to envision the needs of CPC in general terms and over time while also keeping focused and on top of a myriad of details is remarkable. Nancy is also a population researcher in her own right has conducted and published her own research, co-authored papers with CPC Faculty Fellows, and served as a co-Principal Investigator of CPC research projects. These skills make Nancy uniquely well-suited for the role she has plays at the Center, both helping faculty with research projects and training project managers. Nancy has provided 39 years of distinguished service to UNC by playing an enormous and sustained role in CPC's success. I have been associated with four population centers at universities other than UNC, and I have never worked with anyone as talented as Nancy."
-- Elizabeth Frankenberg, Director Carolina Population Center 

In Nancy's honor, contributions can be made to the CPC Staff Training and Development Fund (, which epitomizes her philosophy of building staff excellence.


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