SJU graduate Kennedy named Grand Forks’ ‘Person of the Year’

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January 3, 2018

Mark KennedyUniversity of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy, a 1979 graduate of Saint John’s University, was named the Grand Forks Herald’s “Person of the Year” for 2017.

The newspaper selected Kennedy for his role “at the center of one of Grand Forks’ largest institutions in what turned out to be formative times.”

Kennedy, who became president of the university on July 1, 2016, was faced with a 2.5 percent state allotment reduction in August 2016. According to the Herald, the cuts at the school “were part of a systemwide contraction led by downturns in the North Dakota economic forecast.” It was the second round of cuts the school was forced to make.

Those cuts “rippled across campus at various points of the school year. Longtime professors and staff members took buyouts or structured retirements when offered by the university,” the paper reported.  Then in March 2017, Kennedy cut the women’s hockey team and the men’s and women’s swimming teams at UND.

Kennedy had told the athletics department it needed to cut $1.3 million out of its budget and asked athletic director Brian Faison to send him proposals. By the “time the dust cleared, athletics had cut $2.9 million” by eliminating the three teams (the men’s golf and baseball teams had been cut before Kennedy became president), the paper reported.

However, the Herald noted that Kennedy also took steps to “advance the core items on his agenda,” including embracing the new Fighting Hawks nickname; advancing a master facilities plan sketched out before his arrival that led to the demolition of almost a dozen buildings to reduce the campus footprint; and completing of a five-year strategic plan for the university.

Another notable achievement by UND during Kennedy's tenure includes being ranked by U.S. News as one of the 25 Most Innovative Schools.

Kennedy, who served in Congress representing two Minnesota districts from 2001-07, was the director of the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management before coming to UND.

A native of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, Kennedy graduated with a degree in accounting from SJU. He established the Mark Kennedy Frontiers of Freedom lecture series, which operates through the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement.