FARGO, N.D. — Dr. Robert Kelley has been offered the job as president of the University of North Dakota, after some school supporters complained that the state Board of Higher Education should have interviewed more than one candidate.
The board voted unanimously Monday to selected Kelley, 63, as UND’s 11th president. He has take two days to accept the job, said John Q. Paulsen, board president.
“Dr. Kelley is a wise, experienced and visionary leader,” Paulsen said. “He is a person of absolute integrity. He is fair and decent in everything he does and everything he says.
“Simply stated, people like him, they like to be with him, they like to work with him.”
Chancellor Bill Goetz said Kelley was offered a three-year contract worth $300,000 per year. Kelley, dean of health sciences at the University of Wyoming, would replace Charles Kupchella, who plans to retire in July.
Kelley told board members he would be a hands-on leader who won’t be afraid to trade his suit and tie for jeans and tour the campus to chat with students and staff.
“I tend to like people,” Kelley said during his interview with the board. “I tend to like interaction with people.”
Kelley was the lone finalist selected by a UND search committee, even though the board had asked the committee to name three finalists for consideration. A motion by board member Pam Kostelecky to interview two other candidates was defeated 6-2.
Kostelecky said she was disappointed the search committee “felt they could and should make the decision without the input of the full board.”
Board members said they were impressed with Kelley’s responses to questions about faculty salaries, the school’s jump to Division I athletics, collaboration among the other state universities and communication among students, staff, board members and lawmakers.
“And its not necessarily the answers you have given to the questions … but how I’ve seen you and your wife Marsha interact with the community,” said board member Grand Shaft of Grand Forks.
Kelley told NDSU professor Thomas Barnhart, the board’s faculty representative, that he would work with state leaders and others to improve North Dakota’s last place standing in teacher salaries.
“Chancellor (Bill) Goetz and I have talked in the last week, and I told him my highest priority would be to address the issue of staff compensation,” Kelley said.
Kelley has been the dean of health science at Wyoming since 1999. He had previously served as professor and department head at the University of New Mexico, where he worked with many tribal colleges and minority groups, and athletic boards.
Kelley said he was on the athletic council at the University of New Mexico when the school was forced to clean up NCAA violations in the late 70s and early 80s. He also was involved with the selection of athletic directors at the school.
“There’s is going to be a tremendous resource issue” with UND making the move to Division I, Kelley said. “This institution is well on its way with facilities. I think this is very attractive to student athletes.
“We are going to want to be competitive in all of our sports over time,” Kelley said.
Marijo Loomis Shide, of Larimore, was one of two UND supporters who asked the board to add interviews with University of North Dakota Dean Bruce Smith and University of Florida Nursing Dean Kathleen Long. Kelley, Smith and Long were the committee’s only majority vote-getters.
“Accepting only one candidate instead of the requested three sets a bad precedence that does not reflect well on either the search committee nor the North Dakota Board of Higher Education,” Shide said.
Rich Becker, a UND alumnus, gave the board with a petition asking the committee to consider three finalists. Becker said about 100 people signed the document.
Kostelecky and Richie Smith of Wahpeton voted in favor of Kostelecky’s motion. There was no discussion of the motion.
Paul LaBel, the UND law school dean and head of the UND search committee, told the board that five semifinalists had the chance to show they were qualified to be president.
“One candidate, Dr. Robert Kelley, met that challenge,” he said.
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