WAHPETON, N.D. — North Dakota State College of Science President John Richman plans to retire later this year after spending most of his career at the school.
The 68-year-old will end his roughly 15-year tenure as the school's leader on Dec. 17, NDSCS announced Wednesday, July 21. In an interview with The Forum, Richman said he felt the time was right to step down.
He and his wife, Marcia, don't have any specific retirement plans, but they plan to take time to relax, he said.
“It's what we felt was right for the college," Richman said. "It was right for our family, and it was right for us. And we're extremely comfortable with our decision."
Richman's path to his presidency has been unusual compared to most higher education presidents. The Indiana native attended the school as a football player in the 1970s. He earned his bachelor's degree at Minnesota State University Moorhead and a doctorate in kinesiology at the University of Minnesota.
He was a teacher, coach and athletic director in Ada, Minn., and an assistant coach at the University of North Dakota and MSUM.
He then returned to NDSCS as the head football coach in 1986. He also was a health, physical education and recreation instructor, a director of athletics and a vice president for academic and student affairs for the college.
He served as interim president for a year before being appointed the ninth head of NDSCS in February 2007.
The school credited him with expanding access to career and technical education for area high schools, improving the college's fiscal position and increasing the NDSCS Alumni Foundation's endowment to $28 million.
“Dr. Richman has served NDSCS in multiple roles for decades, and as president with unparalleled energy and dedication for close to 15 years," North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott said in a statement.
NDSCS has a long history of educating and training North Dakota's workforce, Richman said, adding it is a culture he embraced.
"This institution has always been about students," he said. "We've always been here to help people improve themselves as people, to improve their knowledge and skills in whatever profession it was."
He oversaw several expansions and renovations on campus. One of his proudest, he said, was the $6.7 million project to repurpose the Old Main building into a "student success center." The historic aspects of the late 1800s building were preserved, but the renovations helped provide services and resources to students, Richman said.
Among his most notable accomplishments was his role in creating a Cass County career workforce academy. Officials broke ground on the $30 million project earlier this month in south Fargo.
Dubbed the NDSCS Career Innovation Center, the concept of the academy began to form in 2014, Richman said. It started as a conversation on what local educators could do to create a better workforce, he added.
It grew into the idea of a center that schools across the region could share, he said. The academy is slated to open in fall 2022 with the goal of providing students with pathways and skills to pursue careers before college.
The school was at the center of a critical audit in 2019 that found conflicts of interest in hiring a firm to promote the academy. Despite suggestions that NDSCS staff broke the law by reportedly withholding records from the State Auditor's Office, prosecutors declined to pursue charges.
NDSCS disputed claims of wrongdoing but eventually created a plan to fix those issues. Richland called the audit an opportunity to bring value to NDSCS instead of a challenge.
"We took each of those opportunities to, as we always do, to listen and to learn from," Richman said.