When Mark Kennedy was named president at U of Colorado, he was chosen ahead of others with UND connections

Incoming UND President Andrew Armacost was among those who applied. So was Heather Wilson, last year's spring commencement speaker.

Former UND President Mark Kennedy answers questions during a 2016 meeting with the Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

Former UND President Mark Kennedy beat out dozens of candidates for the University of Colorado presidency, including incoming UND President Andrew Armacost, UND's most recent spring commencement speaker and sitting presidents at large universities.

The names of the applicants were revealed Tuesday when the Colorado Independent published a leaked list . The Independent said the list of 30 names was authenticated by the lawyer for the University of Colorado Board of Regents.

On that list are two with connections to UND: Andrew Armacost, the university’s next president, who will take over leadership of campus in June; and Heather Wilson, who gave the commencement address in May 2019.

Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Armacost confirmed he was invited to apply for the position in February, long before the UND position ever opened. He did not interview for the Colorado job.

Armacost -- former dean of faculty at the U.S. Air Force Academy, located in Colorado Springs -- said he assumed the board was likely looking for a person who had campus presidential experience or was the CEO of a large company. Although he didn’t fit that bill, Armacost said the person who invited him to apply told him to apply anyway. Armacost wasn't among those who reached the interview process.


Armacost, who is looking forward to his role at UND, is set to start June 1.

“UND was at the absolute top of my list in terms of opportunities with the great academic programs, the great people and the focus on doing extraordinary things for the state of North Dakota,” he said Tuesday.

Wilson, former secretary of the U.S. Air Force, spoke to UND graduates during the spring commencement in May, just a few weeks after Kennedy was named to the president’s position in Colorado. At that time, Wilson had just been named president of the University of Texas El Paso.

“You’re moving from one rectangle state with sunshine, snow and buffalo to another rectangle state with sunshine, snow and buffalo,” Wilson joked with Kennedy during her commencement address.

Wilson was the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City from 2013 to 2017. She was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives for New Mexico's first congressional district from 1998 to 2009.

Among the other candidates for the Colorado job were Michael Young, president of Texas A&M University; Eric Barron, president of Pennsylvania State University; former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat who led the state from 2007 to 2011; Mark Brown, major general in the U.S. Air Force; and John Montford, former chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. The Colorado Independent reported that the only other candidate the board considered, other than Kennedy, was Kerry Healey, former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts who was president of Babson College at the time. Babson College is a private business school in Wellesley, Mass.

The Colorado Independent, per an agreement with the Board of Regents, redacted the names of three of the candidates. Those candidates informed the board that “being outed for having sought the job could jeopardize their current positions,” the Independent said.

Kennedy’s selection as the lone finalist for the University of Colorado position drew ire among many in Colorado.


Some wanted the regents to release the other finalists’ names to allow for diversity of opinions and other discussion. On May 2, Kennedy was chosen to become CU’s president in a 5-4 vote by the regents.

“There were many great candidates considered for the CU presidency, so I feel fortunate that the Board of Regents selected me for the job,” Kennedy said in a statement to the Independent.

The list is among documents The Daily Camera, the newspaper in Boulder, Colo., has sought via public-records requests since Kennedy was hired. The Daily Camera is suing the University of Colorado system for access to documents related to the presidential search. The full list of more than 150 applicants has not been released by the system.

Kennedy smiling 2019.jpg
Mark Kennedy

Kennedy smiling 2019.jpg
Mark Kennedy

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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