Mark Kennedy

The Colorado Board of Regents unanimously chose University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy as finalist to preside over the University of Colorado.

Mark R. Kennedy, president of the University of North Dakota, is slated to become the next president of the University of Colorado system, the Board of Regents announced Wednesday.

The regents named Kennedy, 61, as the sole finalist to replace the retiring Bruce Benson.

“A proven leader with a diverse set of skills and experiences in higher education, government and business,” is how board chair Sue Sharkey described Kennedy in a statement.

Kennedy said in a statement that he’s honored to be the finalist for the CU presidency and appreciates the confidence of the board.

The regents hired Wheless Partners to conduct a national search at a flat fee of $99,000 plus associated expenses, which system spokesman Ken McConnelogue said are still being calculated. A search committee consisting of representatives from the four campuses — along with alumni, donors and the public — considered about 30 viable candidates, then narrowed the field to 10, McConnellogue said.

The regents interviewed six applicants and unanimously agreed to name Kennedy as the only finalist in line to replace Benson, who announced last summer that he would retire from CU after 11 years of leading the four-campus system.

Under Colorado law, a finalist for the position must be made public at least two weeks before being named president.

Kennedy served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota from 2001 to 2007.

Before Congress, he held leadership positions with companies that became Macy’s and General Mills.

His academic career includes teaching and research at several top universities. He also directed the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.

Kennedy said in a statement that he and his wife, Debbie, are first-generation college graduates, “so we are passionate about the power of a college degree to positively change the lives of students, their families and their communities.”

Kennedy's last year at University of North Dakota has been marred by a dispute with one the school's most generous benefactors, the Engelstad Family Foundation. That included an argument with foundation trustee Kris Engelstad McGarry over the logo on the school's basketball court.

Kennedy will meet with system administration and officials from the CU Foundation on April 22, followed by a visit the next day to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

On April 24, he will be at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, on April 25 at CU Denver and wrap up with CU Boulder on April 26.

Last month, Colorado State University's Board of Governors named Joyce McConnell to succeed Tony Frank as president. McConnell was provost and vice president for academic affairs at West Virginia University.

The Associated Press contributed.


> WATCH: CU President Benson on his plans to step down

> At 80, CU's Bruce Benson is too busy 'running stuff' to slow down for critics

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