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Kelley says he's excited about moving forward, but won't commit to UND just yet

The University of Wyoming dean who was offered UND's presidency Monday gave strong indications Tuesday he will accept the position, but insisted his final answer first will go to North Dakota University System Chancellor William Goetz.

The University of Wyoming dean who was offered UND's presidency Monday gave strong indications Tuesday he will accept the position, but insisted his final answer first will go to North Dakota University System Chancellor William Goetz.

North Dakota's Board of Higher Education voted unanimously Monday to offer UND's presidency to Robert O. Kelley, health sciences dean at Wyoming. But Kelley told the board he needed a few days to make up his mind.

In an interview Tuesday, Kelley said his first visit to UND more than three weeks ago gave him a "broad survey of the campus."

"As you think about that survey, you start to feel you need more of the ABCs," he said. "And what we've seen has been very reassuring."

Kelley met with more than 25 people on the UND campus Tuesday in a series of meetings that ran from before 8 a.m. until after 6 p.m. Some issues he wanted to learn more about, Kelley said, are the financial plans surrounding UND's five-year transition to NCAA Division I athletics and issues related to UND's medical school and its family practice residency programs.

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Kelley's meetings Tuesday included student government leaders and members of the student ambassadors program; medical school Dean H. David Wilson, who was out of town during Kelley's previous visit; and Betty Ralston and Steve Brekke, UND's co-acting athletic directors.

Kelley's wife, Marcia, visited the North Dakota Museum of Art on the UND campus and the UND Wellness Center on Tuesday, as well as participating in several of her husband's meetings, she said.

The couple will fly to Wyoming this morning, and Kelley may call Chancellor Goetz with his answer as soon as today, he said. Kelley will need to meet with the University of Wyoming president and some other people before he can give Goetz a definite answer, he said, and before he can commit to the job's July 1 start date.

Kelley said he has several ongoing obligations at Wyoming many of which involve fundraising and development work. He believes he can wrap that work up and pass it on to his successor before July 1, he said, but wants to be sure.

Kelley said he and Goetz had settled on Friday as the absolute deadline for his answer. If Kelley accepts UND's presidency, he will replace Charles Kupchella, who plans to retire June 30 after nine years as president.

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

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