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Higher Ed Board offers UND presidency to Kelley

The North Dakota Board of Higher Education today offered the UND presidency to University of Wyoming Health Sciences Dean Robert O. Kelley. But Kelley said he needs a few days to consider the offer. Kelley decided before coming to campus that he ...

The North Dakota Board of Higher Education today offered the UND presidency to University of Wyoming Health Sciences Dean Robert O. Kelley.

But Kelley said he needs a few days to consider the offer.

Kelley decided before coming to campus that he could not accept the UND job without a few more days of consideration, he said. Kelley said he informed North Dakota University System Chancellor William Goetz of that decision during dinner Sunday night.

Kelley said his decision to delay was not prompted by public discontent the past week over a search committee's decision to forward only his name for the presidency, despite being tasked with recommending three finalists.

"The integrity of the process has given me no pause," he said.

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However, that was one topic of discussion during a half-hour meeting between Kelley and Goetz after the board had settled on offering him the job and just prior to the board announcement of the offer, Goetz said.

Kelley was the only candidate to win support from three-quarters of the presidential search committee, a threshold the committee had earlier settled on for candidates going forward.

That decision was immediately controversial, prompting one group to try to draft William Ruud, a UND alumnus and president of a Pennsylvania university, into the race. Another group, led by UND athletics supporters, gathered about 75 signatures asking the state board to interview all three candidates who won support from a simple majority of the search committee.

That would have brought into the race UND aerospace dean and former UND football player Bruce Smith, who was one of the UND search committee's semifinalists.

At the opening of Monday's board meeting, member Pam Kostelecky made a motion effectively asking the board to honor that request. The motion was defeated 6-2, with Kostelecky and board Vice President Richie Smith supporting it.

Board President John Paulsen spoke glowingly of Kelley while announcing the job offer.

"Dr. Kelley is a wise and experienced academic leader," he said. "He's fair and decent in everything he does and says."

If he accepts the job, Kelley's annual salary will be $300,000, Goetz said.

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Kelley, 63, holds a Ph.D. in zoology and cell and developmental biology from the University of California-Berkeley.

He worked for many years at the University of New Mexico in his native Albuquerque, rising to be chairman of the anatomy department, before becoming associate vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois-Chicago in 1997. He left Illinois for Wyoming in 1999.

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Marks reports on higher education. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or jmarks@gfherald.com .

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