If Kennedy leaves, Schafer would consider fill-in role

Protests are being held Monday, April 15, at the University of Colorado over potential new president Mark Kennedy. Rob Manch
Protests are being held Monday, April 15, at the University of Colorado over potential new president Mark Kennedy. Rob Manch

GRAND FORKS -- Former interim University of North Dakota President Ed Schafer said Monday, April 15, he wouldn’t rule out serving in that capacity again, although he doesn’t consider himself a candidate for a full-time position.

The former governor was interim president at UND in 2016, prior to current President Mark Kennedy’s arrival.

Kennedy is the sole finalist for the presidency at the University of Colorado and would oversee four campuses in that system. There is a 14-day waiting period before the CU Board of Regents takes a final vote on Kennedy.

Schafer said UND will need to decide how to recruit a new president and if the university plans to hire a stand-in on an interim basis. Schafer said he couldn’t rule out becoming interim president again.

“Nancy and I loved our time at UND,” he said. “We really appreciated our time on campus. We signed up for six months, and at the end, we kind of thought ‘We could’ve been there longer.’ So from that standpoint it is something that is certainly of interest, but on the other hand, we’re in different stages of life, and the reality is that nobody even knows what the parameters are.”

Schafer said he hopes the university will find someone willing to build on projects Kennedy started. Because of his age, 72, he said he would not consider a bid to become the permanent president if Kennedy leaves.

“These things are long-term. You set this thing in motion, and it takes five, six years to get it to unfold. What you want is someone who is going to be there and he or she would commit to the long-term, and you have the chance to build the university over time -- to build the relationships, to put the things together that you need to do -- that’s a five year process or more,” he said. “And at 72 years old, where I am now -- cripes! -- I’m going to be in my grave in five years. In any case, five years from now, I don’t think that I would fit the profile of what you want for a young, dynamic, committed university president.”

Meanwhile, the process for Kennedy continues. Two Colorado University System officials plan to visit UND this week to evaluate Kennedy as a routine part of the vetting process.

Patrick O’Rourke, vice president of the University Counsel and secretary of the Board of Regents, and Kathy Nesbitt, vice president for administration, plan to meet with students and staff at UND Thursday in a somewhat informal manner, according to CU spokesman Ken McConnellogue.

Kennedy penned a letter to UND staff and students Wednesday that described mixed feelings of excitement over the new opportunity and sadness upon leaving UND.

Friday, North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott sent Kennedy a letter accepting his “de facto notice of resignation,” based on statements Kennedy made throughout the week to the university community and media.

Kennedy sent a letter back Saturday to stress that he has not resigned yet.