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UND's Mark Kennedy to meet in Las Vegas with Kris Engelstad McGarry

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An agenda hasn't been released, but UND President Mark Kennedy is flying Wednesday to Las Vegas to visit with a university donor who claims their relationship has deteriorated.

University President Mark Kennedy will travel with other UND officials to meet Kris Engelstad McGarry in Las Vegas, Peter Johnson, the university's interim vice president for university and public affairs, confirmed Tuesday. The meeting is set to take place sometime Wednesday morning, Johnson said.

"Both President Kennedy and Kris Engelstad McGarry have offered dates for meeting during the past several weeks," Johnson said in an email to The Herald. "This date worked with their schedules."

Johnson said he had not seen an agenda for the meeting as of late Tuesday afternoon.

McGarry, the daughter of Ralph Engelstad, claimed earlier this month during a meeting with Herald editorial staff that communication between herself and Kennedy has been "quite hostile at times."

Ralph Engelstad Arena, a $110 million gift from her father to the university, was completed in 2001 as the home to UND hockey. It is owned and operated independently by RE Arena Inc. and is leased to the university.

The arena is contracted to be turned over to UND in 2030. The facility was just one of many topics discussed on May 9 between the Herald and McGarry, who requested the meeting with editorial staff.

The Engelstad Foundation has donated more than $12 million to the UND Foundation since 2011, though the annual contributions have decreased in recent years.

When asked if that kind of funding is in jeopardy in the future, she told the Herald, "Well, I will say that the funding to the school itself, yes."

In response to the Herald story, Kennedy said in a statement he was "surprised" by the way McGarry described their relationship in the media. From his perspective, he believed he had "always had good, cordial and civil relationships."

"We have been having conversations about the service agreement with representatives of the Engelstad family, but I believe our discussions have been in good faith and in a cordial manner," he said. "As we've tried to articulate what's in the interest of the UND athletic department, we've merely relied on the foundational agreements that define the parties' roles and relationships."

McGarry was unavailable for comment Tuesday evening.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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