William Vandament, the 10th president of Northern Michigan University who served from 1991-1997, died Saturday, April 20, at his home in Signal Hill, Calif.. He was 81.
After teaching psychology for a few years, Vandament had a long career as a university administrator. At Ohio State University, he was vice president for finance and planning. He went on to become senior vice president of administration at New York University. On the West Coast, he was provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs for the California State University System at Long Beach. In 1989, he published Managing Money in Higher Education.
Vandament came to Northern Michigan University in June 1991 as interim president; he was asked by the Board of Trustees to become full-time president in the spring of 1992.
Vandament’s time as president was marked by significant budget cuts. There was a $1.3 million cut to state appropriations that led to tough decisions such as whether to open the Superior Dome as planned. Ultimately, he had to cut $ 2.8 million and eliminated 49 jobs. Even with this level of cuts, Vandament was respected throughout NMU and the Marquette community. He valued transparency on campus, encouraged input from the entire campus community and asked repeatedly for the community to come together during the tough financial times. Students liked him, too, because of his willingness to spend time with them, including participating in student activities such as playing with the pep band during hockey and basketball games.
“Bill Vandament was an exceptional leader of Northern Michigan University during a challenging time,” said NMU President David Haynes. “I worked closely with Bill during his tenure as president and I always admired his integrity, ability to bring people together to make strong decisions, his vision and his sense of humor. He was such a dear friend to so many of us at NMU and in the community, and he will be missed.
“The NMU family and those who knew him throughout the Upper Peninsula will be thinking fondly of Bill and sending our prayers and deep sympathy to Margery, as well as their daughters, family members and friends,” said Haynes.
Also during Vandament’s tenure as NMU president, he implemented the flat tuition rate, a tuition structure that continues today for students. He also maintained a strong relationship with the Michigan Legislature. Other important contributions by Vandament include putting up recognition plaques across campus for the people whom each building is named after. This effort earned him a Dwight B. Waldo History Award in June 1996 for the preservation and promotion of Upper Peninsula history. He established a temporary office at NMU to assist community leaders in jump-starting the process of converting K.I. Sawyer to civilian use. He also initiated contracts with South African universities to make study abroad possible for NMU students.
When Vandament retired and left NMU, the campus community came together to celebrate his time at NMU and his contributions. At the May 1997 commencement ceremony, he and his wife, Margery, received an honorary degree. Students gathered a month earlier and presented a gift of $1,200 to create the Vandament Scholarship Fund. In July, they presented an additional $65,000 toward the scholarship.
“I think the relationships between the university and community was so strong when he was president and the attitude on campus was one of pulling together,” said Mike Roy, former NMU interim president (2003-04) and the vice president of finance and administration under Vandament. “I think there were a lot of positives during that time about what the university was doing and, to a great extent, that was the way Bill did business. He was very unassuming and very easygoing. He was a good mentor and a good coach for me and I think other people on campus, too. He was just that kind of person.”
Vandament was born in Hannibal, Missouri, on Sept.16, 1931. He received his bachelor’s degree from Quincy College and his doctorate in psychology from the University of Massachusetts. He and Margery (Lampe) are the parents of Lisa and Jane.
No services are planned. In lieu of flowers his family would appreciate contributions to the William and Margery Vandament Endowment Fund, Northern Michigan University Foundation, 1401 Presque Isle Ave., Marquette, MI. 49855.