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UND Founders Day marks departures

UND has the distinction of being around for about as long as North Dakota has been part of the Union, a fact it celebrates each year at Founders Day.

That longevity is on display in a couple ways at the annual commemoration, held each year in late February. Members of the university community gathered at Memorial Union reflect on 135 years as an institution, but also to say goodbye to colleagues who are leaving the school in retirement. Longtime philosophy professor Don Poochigian, who died in December, was remembered posthumously.

Poochigian, and others on the list of about 100 faculty and staff honored at the Founders Day banquet, had moved on from the university in turbulent times. The professor had left UND through a plan extended through a campaign of voluntary separations put into motion last year as university leaders coped with deep budget cuts that hit the entirety of North Dakota higher education. This year's Founders Day list of retiring and retired employees seems to reflect that earlier push, which was the second of its kind in as many years.

The list of retirees honored at the 2017 Founders Day commemoration also came in with about 100 names of former UND employees. The banquet held the year prior, before voluntary involuntary separations began, featured roughly 60 names, as did the event before that.

The list at the 2014 Founders Day had closer to 50 names.

The growing list was referenced indirectly by the event's guest speaker. Mark Hagerott, the chancellor of the North Dakota University System, remarked that it had been a tough year as UND rode out the systemwide budget reductions. And some of those to whom the university had said goodbye over the past year, Hagerott said, didn't have the setting of a nice banquet when making their exit. Joshua Wynne, the dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, introduced the approximately 40 retirees who were honored at Thursday's event.

When taken as a whole, Wynne said, the list of employees had racked up about 3,000 years of service to the university—a body of work far longer than that of the institution, and representative of all who have made the campus great.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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