After Scathing Review From Employees UND President Robert Kelley To Retire In January


Yesterday we got news of a scathing survey from UND employees which was highly critical of UND President Robert Kelley. That came on top of a showdown with students earlier this year where he was nearly the recipient of a vote of no confidence.

Today campus sources tell me that Kelley is set to announce his retirement. There hasn’t been an official announcement yet, but sources say that will be coming later today (UPDATE: announcement below).

I’m told his last day will be January 14.

Apparently the spin from Kelley’s administration is that this has nothing to do with the survey I was the first to publish yesterday, but that’s a little hard to believe. I don’t think there’s any question that he’s going out under a cloud.

As I said in yesterday’s post, you really have to wonder how much longer Kelley is going to last in his present position. He’s in his 70’s and he seems to have lost the trust of significant factions within the faculty and student body. And let’s not forget all the UND alumni and sports fans ticked off by his patently arrogant handling of the Fighting Sioux nickname issue.

I think this writing has been on the wall for some time.

below the survey results from UND employees which I posted yesterday. Kelley go this share of criticism, but Provost Thomas Dilorenzo was the target of the most ire from the responses. It’s been rumored that he’s a possible Kelley successor. It seems, at least with this survey as our guide, that he would be a continuation of the problems UND saw under Kelley.

UPDATE: Here’s the official email just sent out to the UND campus:

From: University and Public Affairs <>
Date: June 9, 2015 at 11:41:03 AM CDT
Subject: President Robert O. Kelley Announces Retirement from UND
Reply-To: <>


University of North Dakota President Robert O. Kelley has announced his retirement, effective January 14, 2016. President Kelley is UND’s 11th president and has served in the position since July 1, 2008.

President Kelley noted that he has been considering the possibility of retirement for some time, and that the time is right to plan the transition to UND’s next president. Said President Kelley, “I am honored to have served as the President of this exceptional university for the past seven years. The University of North Dakota has made—and will continue to make—an indelible contribution to the state of North Dakota, the nation, and the world. It has been my privilege to work alongside the faculty, staff, students and alumni who make that happen. I and my wife, Marcia, who has been the University’s ‘First Volunteer,’ as well as First Lady, look forward to continuing that association for the next several months, and we will continue to follow UND’s progress with great interest and support.”

Transition and search plans for a new UND president will be announced by the North Dakota University System (NDUS) in the weeks to come. President Kelley expressed his appreciation for the support of the NDUS during his term as President. Said Kelley, “It has been a pleasure working with Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen, and I regret that I will only briefly have the opportunity to work with incoming Chancellor Mark Hagerott. I believe Chancellor Hagerott will provide excellent leadership to the NDUS and to the cause of higher education in North Dakota. I also appreciate the support of the State Board of Higher Education these past seven years.”

President Kelley added: “I also want to express my appreciation for UND’s outstanding senior leadership team. They have worked tirelessly to advance the Board’s strategic plan and the strategic roadmap for the University, Exceptional UND.”

Interim Chancellor Larry C. Skogen said, “Yesterday, when Bob and I met for his evaluation, he informed me again of his intent to retire. We reflected upon both his accomplishments and the university’s growth in many areas during his time at UND, especially in terms of knowledge and growth in areas such as the law school, medical school, and the research being done at UND, as well as continued educational programming across all disciplines. I thank Bob for ensuring the quality of these programs, and I also thank him for his leadership during the tumultuous sports team nickname change. He showed tremendous fortitude during adverse times, and I wish him the best in his retirement.”

Terry Hjelmstad, Chair, State Board of Higher Education, added, “Under Dr. Kelley’s leadership, UND’s new School of Entrepreneurship highlights the value North Dakota places on innovation. Now UND is in the company of only a few select institutions dedicated to entrepreneurialism. UND has also made great strides in the College of Engineering and Mines and its petroleum engineering program, with a 3,677% increase, which speaks volumes for UND responding to the state’s needs as well as the students. Bob saw where the attention of his programs needed to be focused to meet the needs of UND, the workforce as well as students, and I thank him for his leadership.”

During President Kelley’s term, and under the Exceptional UND strategic roadmap, the University saw unprecedented growth and progress in a number of areas, including:

Academic Programs: UND’s petroleum engineering was initiated, and has since increased in size from 7 students to over 300. The nation’s first degree program in Unmanned Aircraft Systems was begun. A number of endowed chair positions were established in departments such as Music, Health Sciences, and Business and Public Administration. Significant class expansion took place in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Buildings: The renovation of the new Education Building and key portions of the Memorial Union, as well as the construction of the Gorecki Alumni Center. The expansion and renovation of the School of Law, as well as construction of the Athletics High Performance Center and the new building for the School of Medicine and Health Science also commenced. Ground was broken for Robin Hall and the renovation of the Wilkerson Commons.

Enrollment: UND saw its highest-ever levels of enrollment under President Kelley’s leadership. The University recruited its most academically-prepared freshman class, with an average ACT score of 23.8 and an average GPA of 3.4.

North Dakota Spirit/The Campaign for UND: This UND Alumni Association and Foundation Campaign was the largest capital campaign in North Dakota history, raising $324 million for student scholarships, faculty endowments, and other support for the University.