Monday marks the beginning of a new era at the University of Colorado, as Mark Kennedy takes over as president. He will spend the first day visiting all four campuses — Boulder, Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs.
All of Colorado should welcome and encourage him.
Kennedy begins his job at 8 a.m. Monday with a visit to the Cybersecurity Building, 3650 N. Nevada Ave., at UCCS. His tour will continue with a visit to the new Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., at UCCS. He will continue on to visit areas of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, then proceed to CU-Boulder, concluding with a visit to CU-Denver beginning at 4 p.m. at the College of Engineering on the Auraria campus.
Kennedy, former president of the University of North Dakota, comes with extraordinary promise. We do not envy anyone who follows in the footsteps of retiring President Bruce Benson, but have confidence Kennedy possesses the hard-to-find talents, skills and credentials to equal or exceed Benson’s amazing legacy.
We spoke with Kennedy in April shortly after the University of Colorado Board of Regents chose him as the lone finalist for the job by a unanimous, bipartisan vote.
What strikes us most is Kennedy’s genuine passion for higher education, but even more for the people it serves. He talks about serving students and helping them achieve, more than anything else. The students are customers who deserve worthwhile and lifelong returns on their investments in education. Although many benefits of education cannot be measured with data, we are impressed by the 10% increase in graduation rates under Kennedy’s watch at North Dakota.
Kennedy has taught at top U.S. and international universities. He directed the graduate school of political management at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Much like Benson at CU, Kennedy responded to North Dakota’s state funding cuts by increasing private-sector funding through public-private partnerships. As a former business executive, Kennedy brings the kind of private-sector experience that helped Benson transform a once dysfunctional university into an institution respected internationally for academics and research.
Kennedy is a good fit for Colorado, given his commitment to ensuring freedom of speech and academic freedom for all. He has a record of maintaining an even playing field that favors intellectual, ethnic and religious diversity.
Kennedy also brings to Colorado a record of defending and improving the natural environment. Among the public-private partnerships he created was a project that replaced the University of North Dakota’s coal-fired power plant with a more environmentally friendly alternative. A resulting reduction in the campus’ carbon footprint equals taking 8,600 cars off the road. His work put the University of North Dakota among the greenest campuses in the country.
It is no secret Kennedy’s selection became controversial for a brief time before regents finalized it. That is typical in Colorado, where small forces of loud political activists politicize appointments of this type with issues that have nothing to do with the business at hand. They tried to stop Benson’s appointment as well. Had they succeeded, they would have caused the biggest lost opportunity in the university’s history.
CU’s trajectory of growing enrollment applications, state-of-the-art research, growing endowments and soaring outcomes for students should continue and improve. We are confident regents chose just the right person to continue these trends. Welcome, President Kennedy, to the great state of Colorado.