Former Williston State President Ray Nadolny Writes Book With Unflattering Anecdotes About University System Leaders


Williston State College President Ray Nadolny describes the challenges and opportunities facing the colleges in the Oil Patch Thursday during a state Board of Higher Education meeting. Amy Dalrymple/Forum Communications Co.

Ray Nadolny resigned as the President of Williston State College in 2016. Now he’s written a bit of a tell-all book about his at times rocky tenure at the school which is causing a buzz in political and academic circles. Nadolny isn’t all that complimentary of the Legislature, or some of his bosses in the North Dakota University System.

The title of the book is, “Resilient: Living, Dying, and Rising in Rural America.” It was published last month.

Here’s the description from Amazon:

A new college president takes a fantastic journey in western North Dakota. He steps into an idyllic, rural community. But within a year, the small-town stage of Williston meteorically and unexpectedly shoots to world fame after the discovery of rich oil reserves far beneath the picturesque farmland. Isolated, abandoned, and surrounded by turmoil, the college president joins forces with local heroes, leveraging the community’s bottomless reservoir of resilience and do-it-yourself values, to keep their small town great.

Among other things, Nadolny recounts the time he was suspended for an alcohol-related incident (though he incorrectly dates that incident to 2015 in the book, it actually happened in 2014). According to Nadolny’s version of events, he fell asleep at a student event after going short on sleep and having some drinks at a reception dinner for an official from WSC’s sister institution in Japan. He says then-Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen admitted to him later that his suspension over the incident was “harsh,” something Nadolny attributes to the University System “protecting itself before a vote that would decide its very existence.”

Measure 3 on the 2014 ballot was a constitutional amendment to replace the existing State Board of Higher Education with a tree-member commission. It failed with nearly 75 percent of the vote saying “no.”

He also describes controversy over fee increases at Williston State, accusing Chancellor Mark Hagerott of being something less than forthcoming in his handling of the situation. Nadolny describes these events in Chapter 13 of the book under the subheadings “An Officer And Maybe Not A Gentleman” (Hagerott is a former Navy guy), “Set Up” and “Deceived.”

Those titles perhaps tell you all you need to know of Nadolny’s opinion on how things turned out.

There’s also this amusing anecdote in which Nadolny describes Hagerott asking him to pick up fast food for a meeting they were to have at the Seven Seas restaurant in Bismarck, a dinner which Nadolny says ended with the Chancellor bragging about his income:

Not a very flattering anecdote. But, of course, it’s one side of the story.

It’s hard to imagine that many people will be interested the in picayune details of the tenure of President at a rural, two-year institution of higher education. Well, not that many people outside of state policy makers, state university system personnel, and gadflies like me. Nadolny’s tale of his time in Williston will be grist for the gossip mills for a while, I think.