Board Considers Finalists after Campus Visits


The NMU Board of Trustees is expected to select Northern’s 12 th president – possibly before the end of March – from among four finalists recommended by the search advisory committee. The candidates visited Marquette the week of Feb. 23 to meet with campus and community groups. Trustees are in the process of verifying credentials, considering qualifications and engaging in follow-up interviews before making an announcement. Timing of the decision could be an important factor. Each of the finalists is in contention for the top administrative post at other schools.


The finalists (in alphabetical order) are:

John Byrd

Current Position: Executive Vice President at the University of Evansville in Indiana

Enrollment: 2,100

Education: Ph.D. in health education, Southern Illinois University; M.Ed. in health education and B.S. in physical education, University of Missouri , Columbia .


Why he is interested in NMU: “I am interested in this opportunity because of Northern Michigan University ’s great academic reputation and its scale. The university is large enough that it can provide a lot of valuable programs and services for students, but it is small enough to give them personal attention. It is also an institution on the move. It responded to the closing of Sawyer Air Force Base. It completed a successful comprehensive fundraising campaign. NMU seems to be a university that accepts change while remaining committed to quality.”


The University of Evansville is a private, United Methodist-related institution. Byrd previously worked at the University of Southern Indiana, a public university. “The combination of both experiences has prepared me well for this position. I understand the need to recruit and raise funds very aggressively because private colleges rely on these strategies. I am also familiar with the operations of a public university. Southern Indiana has an enrollment very similar to Northern Michigan – about 9,700 students – so it would be a comfortable fit.”


On Northern’s comprehensive university and community college functions: “In Indiana , there is only one two-year school in the state. There is a technical college system, but none of the colleges in that system award associate degrees. The University of Southern Indiana did not offer vocational programs like Northern, but it played a similar role in admitting entry-level students or those seeking an AA or AS degree.”


Raymond Cross

Current Position: President, Morrisville State College , New York

Enrollment: 3,400

Education: Ph.D. in college and university administration, Michigan State University ; M.S. in industrial education, Central Michigan University ; and B.S. in technical education, Ferris State University .


Why he is interested in NMU: I believe in the importance of regional, liberal arts universities and integrating that philosophy into career and professional programs. In this era of technology, when people are making decisions quickly, critical-thinking skills are extremely valuable. … NMU’s location and relative isolation are strengths, especially when safety is the number one priority for parents of college students. I also like the high-tech approach and the potential to build on that.


Morrisville is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. “ There is something attractive about the autonomy of institutions in Michigan . If you have a strong vision shared by faculty and staff and endorsed by the university’s board, it is easier to move forward with strategic initiatives. A state system can be more stagnant in this regard … I work with legislators constantly in Morrisville, but we focus on five from our area and we are fortunate to have a couple of key committee members. Here at NMU, it would require a broader approach – not just working with local legislators but spending time in Lansing as the university’s chief lobbyist.”


Morrisville – like NMU – is a ThinkPad university. The institution received national attention this fall when it replaced all telephones in the residence halls with cell phones for each student. The phones offer long distance, a walkie-talkie feature, and free local calls. “That was the third phase of our effort to develop a totally digital campus. In the fourth phase, the function of the cell phones will expand so that they will ultimately replace student ID cards and debit cards. The fifth phase will focus on ways to use the cell phones to enhance safety and security.”

John Fallon, III

Current Position: President, State University of New York at Potsdam

Enrollment: 4,500
Education: Ph.D. in educational administration/higher education from
Michigan State University ; M.A. in educational administration from NMU; and a B.S. in education from Western Michigan University .


Why he is interested in NMU : “It is a combination of my love for the Upper Peninsula , the potential to lead a university that has been a portal of opportunity for my family and friends, and the value that Michigan places on education. All of my education was in Michigan – from Gwinn to East Lansing . I also worked at Saginaw Valley for several years. Through that experience, I developed a strong appreciation for the autonomy enjoyed by the state’s public universities and I became well acquainted with the ins and outs of the legislative system.”

In an effort to increase enrollment, Potsdam adopted an expanded, international focus with Canadian and Korean initiatives. “We were able to attract a significant number of Canadian students when they did away with grade 13 in Ottawa . We reaped the benefits of that. We offer satellite programs in Ottawa and we also established transfer agreements with a couple of two-year colleges – St. Lawrence College in Kingston , which has an enrollment of about 8,000, and Algonquin in Ottawa
, which has 15,000. Our Korean initiative features an annual cohort of students for either our ESL program or to work toward a master of science degree in teacher education.”


Fallon said he supports innovative learning opportunities such as the Winterim program implemented at Potsdam . “Winterim is a unique initiative that takes place between the fall and winter semesters. Instead of going on break, some students enroll in campus-based courses or in travel-abroad programs. For example, students will accompany a professor to Hanoi to learn about the Vietnam War, or they might travel to London to study British theater.”


Les Wong

Current Position: Vice President for Academic Affairs, Valley City State University , North Dakota

Enrollment: 1,000

Education: Ph.D. in educational psychology from Washington State University ; M.S. in experimental psychology; and a B.A. in psychology from Gonzaga University .


Why he is interested in NMU: Northern Michigan has a unique responsibility as the provider of academic programs ranging from the two-year level to the graduate level. Its role in meeting the diverse educational needs of the Upper Peninsula and wider region is very attractive to me. I am also enamored with the ethic of Midwest communities. … My sense of the talent and resourcefulness of the people on this campus has been confirmed during my visit.”


VCSU was the second campus in the nation to implement a 100 percent laptop computer initiative. The school also requires students to develop multi-media CD portfolios. “These are powerful testaments to student learning and an innovative curriculum. They demonstrate that students can respond to global issues and think critically. That is what technology in education is all about. It’s not why you do something, but how you do something. Technology should enhance critical thinking and the overall learning experience. If it diverts from that, I would question its effectiveness. Technology is not the reason a university is great, but it can serve as the cornerstone for taking the curriculum to the next step.”


Wong previously worked at the Evergreen State College in Colorado, which has established a reputation for team teaching and an interdisciplinary approach to education. “I believe in and have seen the benefits of interdisciplinary work. It is sometimes hard for faculty to let go of traditional territorial bounds, but for those who do, the teaching experience is outstanding. Campuses like Northern and Evergreen – where this is the norm – have a unique opportunity to look outward to the human condition and to seek a teaching and learning model than can obtain effects that are quite different and exciting.”

Individual profiles with expanded details on their professional backgrounds can be found at .



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Updated: April 23, 2004