Former North Dakota higher education leader dies at 78

Robert Potts died Friday, Oct. 28. He served as the North Dakota University System chancellor from 2004 through 2006.

Robert Potts
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FARGO — A former North Dakota University System leader has died.

Robert Potts died Friday, Oct. 28, at his home in Florence, Alabama, after being diagnosed with cancer, according to an obituary. He was 78 years old.

Potts served as the North Dakota University System chancellor from 2004 through 2006. The Forum reported that a majority of the State Board of Higher Education in 2006 wanted Potts to resign a year before his contract ended.

Potts elected to resign on July 31, 2006, citing philosophical differences with board members on how the system should operate and applying policies equally to all campuses, according to Forum archives.

He also told the newspaper that then-North Dakota State University President Joseph Chapman refused to accept his authority and “basically thumbs his nose at me.” Chapman claimed he “tried to be professional in all of this.”


Potts was asked to continue as a consultant for the university system after stepping down as chancellor. He went on to be the Arkansas State University president in 2006. He retired as the interim Arkansas University System president in 2011.

In a statement, the North Dakota University System called his career a “legacy of leadership in higher education.” The statement said he made many contributions to higher education.

“Potts never forgot about North Dakota and made many lifetime friends here, oftentimes coming back to the state to enjoy the outdoor activities that the state has to offer,” the statement said.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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