What's this? A new C.D. Spangler Jr.?
Just the mention of that possibility is enough to make the University of North Carolina president laugh.``I'm still wearing the same glasses,' Spangler says.
Sure enough. Spangler looks much the way he has for years. Perfectly tailored Brooks Brothers suits, that slicked down hair and those clear-framed glasses that he's favored since he was a boy.
But there is a change in Spangler these days - not in his appearance, but in his style.
Members of the UNC Board of Governors, chancellors in the system and colleagues on his staff say they've noticed the difference.
``I really think that he has established an agenda to be more responsive and to be more open and more communicative,' said Robert L. ``Roddy' Jones, chairman of the board of governors.
Jones says that is especially true in Spangler's relationship with the board of governors.
Last fall, the board sent Spangler a clear message that he needed to do a better job of communicating with them, of building consensus.
Spangler's shortcomings in this area surfaced in the way he handled the problems last year in the men's basketball program at North Carolina State University.
After three members of the board called for Spangler's resignation, the full board in November gave him a vote of confidence.
That vote came after Spangler said he regretted his handling of the N.C. State matter and promised the board that he'd try to do better.
Based on his actions over the last two months, according to more than two dozen people, Spangler is trying to keep his word.
``I think he is working hard at doing better,' said Tom W. Lambeth, president of the UNC General Alumni Association. ``I think he has shown considerable willingness to acknowledge his mistakes.'
Spangler says he's trying.
In December, when the board did not meet, he mailed members a four-page letter describing some of the things he and the General Administration have been concerned with.
``In the past, it might have been more typical of my approach to wait until there were solutions in hand or the problems had been more carefully studied,' Spangler said when asked this week about the letter.
Board of governors members said they could not remember such a communication from Spangler in the past.
The changes in Spangler's style go beyond his relationship to the board of governors.
Spangler and others say he has:
Reached out more to the system's 16 chancellors, either in group or individual meetings.
Begun a series of meetings with newspaper editors and reporters across the state. He says he realizes that he needs the support of the state's press to be an effective president.
Started attending more of the meetings that are held in the General Administration building - everything from a gathering of faculty members to a get together of the UNC academic affairs officers.
Some of those interviewed say Spangler, after nearly four years in office, may have simply become more comfortable with his job and is beginning to put his own stamp on his presidency.
``I think there is a transition period anytime anyone makes a career change,' Jones said this week. ``(Now) I think he has reached the point where he sees his mission clearer than he did before.'
The early word on Spangler was that he was an intensely private man in an immensely public job. Critics described him as gruff, abrupt and haughty - just the opposite of his predecessor, collegial William Friday. After 30 years in the job, Friday had gained the status of living legend.
The difficulty of that transition wasn't lost on Spangler.
``I heard before I came here almost four years ago that whoever followed President Friday should not unpack his bags because he wouldn't be here a year,' Spangler said. ``I've been living out of that suitcase for 3 1/2 years.' Spangler is clearly ready to unpack. He likes his job and is working hard to satisfy his bosses - the 35 members of the board of governors.
In spite of the resolution of support last fall, there are still a few members who wonder if the changes people ascribe to Spangler aren't more style than substance. They wonder privately whether Spangler has the skills and understanding to do his job.
Spangler's supporters are fully aware of those concerns.
Spangler ``is still the same man we hired .... a man who is more used to business than academics,' Jones said. ``We hired an administrator who has all the tools to grasp the situation and do what it takes.'
That's in keeping with how Jay M. Robinson, Spangler's vice president for public affairs, sees his boss.
``I am a little confused when someone suggests there is a new or big change in President Spangler,' Robinson said. ``I think President Spangler has done an outstanding job since he has been here and I think he gets better the longer he stays.'