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NDSU interim president seeks to lead BSU-NTC

Richard Hanson, interim president at North Dakota State University, spoke at a public forum Thursday afternoon on the first day of his two-day visit to Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College. He is the fifth and final presidential candidate to visit BSU and NTC. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Richard "Dick" Hanson, interim president at North Dakota State University, attracted a packed room at his public forum Thursday afternoon at Bemidji State University.

"Can you see me OK?" the broad-framed, almost 7-foot candidate humorously asked the audience.

Hanson gave a 20-minute presentation, titled "Higher Education at a Crossroads," Thursday afternoon on the first day of his two-day visit to BSU and Northwest Technical College. He is the last of five BSU-NTC presidential candidates to present at a public forum on the BSU campus.

Hanson, originally from Hillsboro, N.D., stepped down as the president of Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, to become NDSU's interim president in December 2009. He replaced Joseph Chapman, who resigned after criticism of his spending.

Hanson and D.C. Coston, vice president for Agriculture and University Extension at NDSU, were among a group of five candidates removed this spring from further consideration in the current search for a new president at NDSU.

"When I arrived at NDSU in the fall, there were a lot of things out of place," Hanson said. "We've had to do some things in the last four months that I think were the result of an institution that grew very quickly in its complexity and depth and we just couldn't get some things done."

NDSU is dealing with a $2.5 million budget shortfall. An audit of the house and four other NDSU building projects were completed this spring.

"I got a preliminary copy of the performance from the state. It is very embarrassing," he said. "It's just awful. It's bad. It's been very hard and I've been very disappointed. But it will be ready for the next guy."

Hanson's sights are now set on BSU-NTC, hoping to start fresh and continue to preserve "the academy" and the "culture" of the two institutions.

Upon learning of the presidential vacancy in Bemidji, Hanson said he found Bemidji an interesting place.

"It's not a fixer-upper," he said. "It's ready to go. Besides, you have another college attached to it. It really looks like a fun challenge."

After visiting NTC earlier Thursday, Hanson noted one of the challenges he might face as president of two institutions was the reputation of one versus the other.

"They've got a great program over there," he said, referring to NTC. "I was very impressed. There will be no weak sisters. I think there's potential for great innovation between the two schools."

Hanson served as president of Waldorf College from 2005-2009. After the college was sold in January, Hanson said he wouldn't be part of the new arrangement because he "needed the independence to make his own decisions."

He began his career in higher education at California State University in Chico in 1974, where he served as chair of the department of home economics. In 1980, he returned to his alma mater, NDSU. He was named chair of the child development and family science department in 1983, and from 1992-1995 served as associate vice president for academic affairs. After leaving NDSU in 1995, Hanson spent 10 years as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., before taking the presidency at Waldorf College in 2005.

During his presentation, Hanson talked of the importance of preserving the culture of BSU and NTC.

"I am a fan of online learning, but I'm also a fan of preserving the academy where we have integrity and ethical principals," he said.

With fundraising efforts, Hanson said he doesn't mind asking people for money, pointing out that at Waldorf he acquired the single largest gift in the history of the college.

"We've been continuing to raise money for projects at NDSU," he said. "We have a $34 million major renovation on our athletic facility, and we have about $29 million raised right now."

Hanson earned his bachelor's degree in sociology and his master's in child development and family relations, both from NDSU. He earned a doctorate in applied behavioral science at the University of California-Davis.

Search timeline

Now that all five semifinalists have completed their on-site interviews and public forums, the Search Advisory Committee will make a recommendation to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities' Chancellor James McCormick by April 26.

For information on the BSU-NTC presidential search, visit