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Bemidji State University: Quistgaard's retirement brings shock, disappointment to many

BSU President Jon Quistgaard

On Wednesday, faculty and staff at Bemidji State University received an e-mail announcing the retirement of BSU president Jon Quistgaard.

The news came as a surprise to some and as a disappointment to others.

"I was surprised because he had not mentioned it to anybody. I thought, 'Wow, that was a bombshell,'" said Don Day, executive director of the American Indian Resource Center at BSU.

"The truth is, I'm disappointed. I think he is a great president," said Day. "Students were on his mind all the time. He also has a great reputation with the American Indian students and tribal leaders."

The American Indian Resource Center was officially dedicated at BSU in 2003, two years after Quistgaard took office.

"I hope (Quistgaard) continues to work on civic organizations and outside entities (before he retires)," said Day. "I hope the new president will have the same commitment towards students that he does."

James Maxwell, dean of the college of business, technology and communication at BSU, said Quistgaard's retirement notice was not something he expected so soon, either.

"I was a little surprised. I really wasn't expecting it," said Maxwell.

Maxwell has served as dean of the college of business for only three months, having been hired in July. Since that time Maxwell says president Quistgaard has supported his ideas to add new programs to enhance the college.

"He is very open-minded. He listens. From that perspective, I am disappointed he is leaving, especially since he was instrumental part in bringing me on board," said Maxwell. "I have only one year to work with him."

Maxwell has several new initiatives under way for the college, such as establishing a technology assistance program where students help real companies with real technology, and adding a fast track entrepreneurial program to assist those interested in starting a business.

"We've accomplished a lot in a short time and Jon has been very supportive," said Maxwell. "Presidents don't normally do that. It's going to be very disappointing to see him go."

BSU Student Senate Co-president Andrew Spaeth said he, too, was initially surprised to hear of Quistgaard's retirement.

"The experiences I've had working with Q have been extremely rewarding," he said. "He holds student concerns near to his heart and he has always been receptive about any problems students have had. Students are definitely sad to see him retire. I think the positive impact he has made in student's lives is evident in the way student have reacted to his announced retirement."

Quistgaard cancelled all interviews with the media Thursday morning.

Assistant director of communications Andy Bartlett stated that "something came up and (Quistgaard) was unavailable."

A nationwide search for a new president will begin soon.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor James H. McCormick will appoint a chairperson, who will form a search advisory committee.

"Typically, depending on how the search process goes, there has often been a president in place by the beginning of next fiscal year," said Melinda Voss, public relations director for MnSCU.

"It's a deliberative, careful process that seeks to include thoughts and opinions and ideas from people on campus and from the larger community," she said.

According to Voss, there are typically around five candidates who will visit the campus. The search committee narrows the field and makes recommendations to the Chancellor, who will make the final recommendation.