“Only in Grand Forks.” My kids have heard this phrase over and over since we moved here from Dallas, Texas, in 2008. At the time, they were still unsure of life here, in this town so far and, seemingly, so different from the one we’d left behind. To try and help them with the transition, my wife, Sherine, and I began pointing out good things that would probably be difficult to find elsewhere. It all started out in fairly trivial fashion:

Can’t sled in the snow like this in Dallas! Have you ever seen such a blue sky? And so on…

Each time, we’d end the observation with the saying, “Only in Grand Forks!” Over time, though, we found that there really is something deeper — beyond just the weather — about the people, opportunities, and experiences here that is unique, but so ubiquitous that we often forget about it.

So, even though the kids got past the transitional period long ago, we still find ourselves repeating the old maxim. It’s a frame of mind that constantly reminds all of us how lucky and privileged we have been in ending up with this community that is so unbelievably kind, hardworking, and generous.

Over the past 11 years, our collection of “Only in Grand Forks” moments has grown enormously, as has our love for this city, this state and this university. I’m sincerely grateful to the many wonderful people who have warmly embraced, encouraged, and supported me and my family. For all of them, we will always be in debt.

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It has been one heck of a journey, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our College’s incredible faculty, staff, and students and express my immense pride in the work we have all achieved together. The College of Engineering and Mines has seen unprecedented growth that truly would have been impossible without the hard work and dedication of these incredible people in this incredible place. Of course, the support of alumni and friends, the state, and the College’s Executive Board was also crucial to our collective success. I am truly thankful to all of them. I’d also like to congratulate my colleague and dear friend, Brian Tande, for his appointment as interim dean of the college. Brian is a talented and visionary leader, and I am confident that he will competently lead our very capable faculty and staff to more success and a brighter future.

I will always be grateful to the State Board of Higher Education and to UND for giving me the opportunity to spend 11 amazing years in this special place. I leave Grand Forks with countless fond memories and a sense of great optimism about the future.

Until we meet again,

Hesham El-Rewini, Ph.D., P.E., is the outgoing dean and professor of the UND College of Engineering and Mines.