Friday, Jan. 21, 2010

CAMPUS Extra: Governor Appoints New Trustees

Northern Michigan University alumni Stephen Gulis Jr. of Rockford and Rick Popp of Northville Township have joined the NMU Board of Trustees. They are among the new university appointments Gov. Rick Snyder filed Thursday with the Senate.


Gulis retired as president of global operations for Wolverine World Wide Inc., a leading global marketer of branded footwear that is headquartered in Rockford.  He previously served the company as executive vice-president, chief financial officer and treasurer. Gulis graduated from NMU in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He delivered the May 2007 commencement address at his alma mater and received an honorary doctor of business degree. He also spoke to the Economic Club of Marquette County earlier the same year. His wife, Janet (Bloeser), is an NMU alumna. She earned her BSN degree in 1980.


“I’ve been interested in serving on Northern’s board for several years, so I’m very pleased that the governor reached out and asked me,” said Gulis. “As an alumnus, I also look forward to helping the university strengthen its representation downstate among potential students. There’s a real opportunity to further develop the NMU brand.


“I believe the education system for the state of Michigan is going to be extremely important to our economic future. Anything I can do to support that is a worthy cause. My financial background obviously can help in identifying new, additional or innovative ways to look at the funding challenges. But we have to be careful that we still continue to provide a quality education. We can’t afford to downgrade the level of service because of funding constraints. You don’t have to be the cheapest to have the best value. That’s key.”

Popp is director of employee benefits at Ford Motor Company. He previously was director of human resources for Ford of Mexico and has held various HR leadership positions in more than 20 years with the company. Born in L’Anse and raised in Iron Mountain, Popp earned two degrees from NMU: a master’s in public administration with an emphasis in personnel and labor relations in 1990; and a bachelor’s in computer science in 1988. He played quarterback for the Wildcats, leading the team that advanced to the semifinals of the 1987 NCAA Division II national playoffs. Popp is a past president of the NMU Alumni Association and also served on its board. He met his wife, Sue (Willson), at Northern. She graduated in 1990 with a finance degree and also had NCAA playoff experience as captain of the 1988-89 Wildcat women’s basketball team.


“I feel very privileged to receive a call from the new governor and honored to join Northern’s board,” said Popp.  “I’m certainly familiar with economic challenges. The auto industry faced a tremendously dark period, similar to what the state is going through. At Ford, I was fortunate to be part of arguably the biggest turnaround in corporate history. I have confidence that with a fresh start, the future of Michigan is looking up as well.


“We had to make extremely difficult decisions at Ford that caused short-term pain but allowed us to remain competitive in a global industry over the long term. NMU also needs to stay competitive—not only in cost, but in quality. You can’t cost-cut your way to prosperity. It will be interesting to see the similarities and differences between corporate and higher education strategy.”


Gulis succeeds Larry Inman and Popp succeeds Doug Roberts, whose terms expired. The new trustees will serve through Dec. 31, 2018.



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Updated: January 24, 2011

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