Who exactly is Peter Hans?

Most would describe the UNC system president as mild-mannered, polite, and soft spoken. But he’s quietly one of the most powerful leaders in the state, who, with the help of the legislature, may be poised to expand his education empire. 

This week, The Assembly—which, by the way, if you haven’t already shelled out the $3 for a subscription is well worth shelling out for—published a deep dive into Hans, exploring his rise to power and influence on higher education in North Carolina. 

“He is a very soft-spoken, polite man who is not confrontational and doesn’t come off as confrontational,” Joe Killian, of N.C. Policy Watch, told The Assembly. “And he is quietly and politely securing an awful lot of power.”

A critical source of that power is Hans’s close ties to state leaders on both sides of the aisle—his champions include Governor Roy Cooper, who attended his 2001 wedding, and Republican state Senate Leader Phil Berger. 

Berger told The Assembly that the legislature is considering merging North Carolina’s university system with its community colleges. 

“I think there’s a need,” Berger told The Assembly. “One of the things that we have in the Senate budget is the initial plan for funding for a structure that would incorporate the community college and university systems.

“If we get them all in one building…maybe we can get them into one organizational structure.”

When asked if Hans was the right man to lead a consolidated state higher education system, Berger said, “I think so.” 

Assembly founder Kyle Villemain’s story was a thoughtful and well-written profile of a man who seemingly would prefer to stay out of the spotlight. But it’s a light appropriately shone on one of the state’s most powerful figures. 

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Follow Senior Staff Writer Leigh Tauss on Twitter or send an email to ltauss@indyweek.com.