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VIEWPOINT: Thank you, Grand Cities, North Dakota

GRAND FORKS -- In the past few months, I've taken a bit of time to reflect on how much the chance to serve as president of UND has meant to me and to Adele. Our experience as president and as first lady has been wonderful, and we thank all who ha...

GRAND FORKS -- In the past few months, I've taken a bit of time to reflect on how much the chance to serve as president of UND has meant to me and to Adele. Our experience as president and as first lady has been wonderful, and we thank all who have helped to make it so.

It has been so rewarding for us to have had some small role -- even if primarily as cheerleaders, in some cases -- in the accomplishments achieved by many great people over the years.

We watched our facilities staff manage the unprecedented development of our physical plant. If we include Ralph Engelstad Arena and the Alerus Center (built by Grand Forks), nearly a half-billion dollars has been added to the asset base of UND.

We take great pride in having seen our faculty and staff take UND's annual research and sponsored program base up past the $100 million mark. Thanks to the flexibility granted to us by the Legislature, the State Board of Higher Education, the University Planning and Budget Committee and other groups, faculty and staff salaries saw improvement. We have enjoyed the privilege of working with the world-class Alumni Association and Foundation staff, board members and our new National Campaign Steering Committee, as well as seeing new records set in private giving.

We have witnessed the impact of the generosity of benefactors such as Ralph Engelstad , Norm Skalicky, Ray Rude, James Ray, Larry Jodasaas, the Hopper-Danleys, Norm and Ann Hoffman and others.

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We also take great pride in seeing our Enrollment Services staff lead the effort to bring several thousand additional students to what is, today, arguably the most academically qualified student body in UND's history. It has been gratifying to see our academic leaders establish more nationally recognized signature programs, such as the one in entrepreneurship and our new "Essential Studies" program.

In 1998, when I first visited Grand Forks, the effects of the 1997 flood were still fresh. I remember standing in a location where the recovery was still a ways off into the future and saying to Adele that things could go either way for the Grand Cities.

But after meeting many wonderful people during that visit, we concluded that the likely direction would be positive, and it would be fun to be part of the changes. It certainly has been.

When I was inaugurated in October 1999, the banquet was held downstairs in the Civic Center. While the Civic Center was a fine building and it served the city well, it doesn't begin to compare with the many world-class facilities in Greater Grand Forks today.

It has been wonderful to watch the growth and vibrant progress made in Greater Grand Forks during the past nine to 10 years. What an amazing community! We are so glad to have been a small part of what has happened in the Grand Cities.

Beyond Grand Forks, it also has been gratifying to help implement the Higher Education Roundtable and the resulting alignment of North Dakota's public colleges and universities with state government and the private sector. UND has had, along with North Dakota's other colleges and universities, an unprecedented opportunity to help shape a brighter future for all North Dakotans.

It has been our honor to have worked with a wonderful group of university presidents, state board members and system office staff.

To the State Board of Higher Education, to the faculty, to the staff, to the students, to alumni everywhere, to the people North Dakota -- the owners of the great institution that is UND -- we extend our sincere thanks and appreciation for the opportunity to serve with you.

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As I hand over the keys, I believe the university is headed in a positive direction and has a very bright future. I congratulate Bob Kelley -- and Marcia Kelley -- on Bob's appointment as president of UND. I am fully confident that he will -- certainly with the help I know he will have -- lead UND to the next level.

We look forward to maintaining a close connection to North Dakota and the university. It's been an enormous privilege for us to serve you, and for that, we are profoundly grateful.

Kupchella retired last week as the 10th president of UND.

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