Plain Talk: Engelstad Family Says They’ll Withhold Donations to UND, Calls for President Kennedy to Be Fired


In the lobby of the Ralph Engelstad Arena is a bronze statue of Ralph Engelstad, longtime donor and namesake of the arena. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

“He’s getting no funds from us until somebody else is in there.”

That’s what Kris Engelstad McGarry, a trustee of the Engelstad Foundation and spokesperson for the Engelstad family, said on this episode of Plain Talk referring to embattled President Mark Kennedy.

The Engelstads have made hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gifts to the University of North Dakota over the years, most notably the Ralph Engelstad Arena. But Engelstad McGarry said that while her family “will continue to support students” with funding for scholarships, they will not make other types of gifts to the school.

“Those things will not happen,” she said.

“I’ve hesitated about saying that before,” Engelstad McGarry said when asked if Kennedy should be fired, but when asked again directly if UND should move on from the current president she said “yes.”

She told me the Engelstad family is concerned about the future of UND.

“He basically is incapable of fundraising because he’s offended so many donors,” Engelstad McGarry said. She expressed particular frustration with a recent and uncritical evaluation of Kennedy.

“When I see glowing reports I wonder if they’re seeing the same person,” she said.

“Where are his bosses? Where is the board of higher education?” she asked.

Last year Engelstad McGarry spoke with the Grand Forks Herald about a “hostile” relationship with Kennedy. At the time she said future gifts from her family to the university were in jeopardy.

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