Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles was sworn in Wednesday as the president of the University of North Carolina system, calling it the greatest honor of his career.

"As I've gotten a little older, balder and maybe a little wiser, I've learned that sometimes in life the real world is even fonder than your dreams," said Bowles, 60, who twice ran unsuccessfully for Senate before being tapped for the academic post last year.

Bowles began the job Jan. 1, replacing Molly Broad, who had been president since 1997. He was sworn in at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, his hometown.

Bowles, a former investment banker, was President Clinton's chief of staff from 1996 to 1998. He won the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2002 and 2004 but lost first to Republican Elizabeth Dole and then former Rep. Richard Burr.