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CommTech’s Jim Gogan prepares to retire

Very few UNC-Chapel Hill employees have directly impacted and enabled the work of every student and professional person of this University, but Jim Gogan, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Communication Technologies, has done that day in and day out for nearly 42 years.






While shaping the technological infrastructure that runs the institution we know and love, Gogan also has boosted Carolina’s stature and goodwill beyond our campus by collaborating with statewide IT organizations and spearheading initiatives to help surrounding schools and communities access network resources.

Jim Gogan

Jim Gogan

During the past fiscal year, Gogan has been preparing his Communication Technologies division to continue without him. In February 2019, Gogan will retire after serving 31 years with ITS and other University central computing operations that predated ITS, and a total of 42 years and three months with UNC-Chapel Hill.

As Communication Technologies AVC, Gogan oversees communication technologies infrastructure and services for the campus. That includes the data network, phone service, cable TV services, fiber between buildings and wiring within buildings, and everything that needs to be able to work on the network.

Architect of the campus data network

Gogan was instrumental in architecting Carolina’s data network — from single broadband backbone in the 1980s to today’s extensive fiber, Ethernet and wireless network — as well as identifying funding models and helping create programs for network support, including ResNET. For decades, Gogan has kept the network cutting edge through his leadership, vision, customer focus and unparalleled work ethic. As a direct result, students, researchers, faculty and staff enjoy one of the fastest, most reliable network connections of any college in the country. It is a significant reason why Carolina remains a top research institution and the flagship university within the UNC system.

As the University’s network architect, Gogan made possible multiple of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s large-scale nationwide genomics projects, including the The Cancer Genome Atlas project. This work is extremely data intensive.

Gogan has always required the Networking group find a way to provide all that is possible to students, faculty and staff. “It is never ‘can we do it?’ or ‘how do we do it,’ but ‘how do we do it best?’” said Cynthia Henshaw, ITS Network Engineer.

One example that epitomizes Gogan’s “best” approach is his implementation of pervasive wireless in the residence halls. Despite a very short lead-time and a relatively small budget for the considerable project, the project was completed in 13 months. It was anticipated to take two years.

“Jim oversaw what was one of the most successful collaborations across multiple groups on campus I’ve seen,” said Paul Wolff, a former ITS ResNET Program Director.

In recent years, Gogan also developed and executed:

  • a three-year plan to provide pervasive wireless access throughout the campus, installing 4,000 wireless access points and related cabling
  • a successful five-year project to migrate campus telephone service from archaic PBX technology to more modern and portable Voice-over-IP technology
  • a robust life-cycle replacement plan to ensure that our network continues to be state of the art
  • standard network speeds of 1 gigabit per second to the desktop

Creating something of significance and immense scale is noteworthy, but how you create something is often even more important. Gogan inspires others by his resolute dedication to the University and his boundless energy, good humor and compassion.

“Jim Gogan is that guiding voice on the radio at 3 a.m. when a switch goes down,” said Mary Wezyk, Networking Analyst. “I’ve never met anyone who has more work ethic and stamina.”

Transformative leader on and off campus

Gogan’s influence, innovation and collaborations extend beyond our campus and across the state. As one most significant example, Gogan was instrumental in building critical collaborations with agencies across Orange County to jointly improve high-speed connections as demand and prices for bandwidth skyrocket. When Gogan helped organize the Orange Public & Education Network, each agency was working on fiber projects to expand bandwidth and was trying to find a way to pay for the work. With Gogan’s leadership and vision, UNC-Chapel Hill and these other agencies began solving connectivity problems by exchanging bandwidth resources. By building these trust relationships, generating goodwill and opening the floodgates of creative ideas, they have been able to achieve things together that they wouldn’t have been able to singularly.

Such collaborations are successful, in part, because Gogan works well with people at all levels of the University and with key stakeholders outside of Carolina and within our community. His easy-going, unpretentious spirit combined with his vast knowledge and vision inspire trust from people inside and outside of information technology.

Whether they work at other University departments, with a community agency or an IT organization, people speak appreciatively about their collaborations with Gogan. They revere him for his leadership, exceptional and extraordinary intelligence, astute problem-solving abilities, technical prowess and clarity. Likewise, when staff members say that they work for Gogan, they do so with a lot of pride. They have immense respect for Gogan and his contributions.

“We all share the legacy he built,” said Ryan Turner, Manager of Network Operations. “I know it will guide us long after he has retired.”

Key Partner(s): All University schools & departments
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