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Pam Younggren, Published October 25 2009

Chapman is a true visionary

I am so disheartened because we are losing someone who has transformed our university, our city and our state. Joseph Chapman has brought so many positive changes to the whole area over the past decade, but he is being crucified for political ends, over matters that have no consequence to North Dakota taxpayers.

The North Dakota State University president’s house, which belongs to the university and which was paid for entirely with private funds, will be an asset to NDSU and a part of campus we can all be proud of for the next century.

When I graduated from there in the late ’60s, NDSU, and Fargo, were far different places than they are now. Today, we see a vibrant city and university, respected and known around the world. We see NDSU students around the city, going to classes in downtown Fargo, as well as on the main campus. We see an active and busy downtown Fargo, with NDSU students being a key part of the rebirth. And, we see high-tech businesses and industries locating in our city, primarily because of the reputation of North Dakota State University and its graduates.

This growth and change did not just happen. It required the energy, the charisma, the courage, the intellect and the drive of a visionary leader to transform NDSU from what it was to what it is today. The visionary leader arrived in Fargo near the end of the last century. He told us that NDSU could be a leader in research and development in many areas; he said that NDSU could attract top-drawer students from around the world; he said that NDSU could attract grants and funds from foundations, businesses and the government; and he said that NDSU could play a leading role in making Fargo and North Dakota a destination, rather than a stopover, for students. And, in the space of one decade, he has done that. This visionary is Joe Chapman.

He, along with former Mayor Bruce Furness, made Fargo a world-class educational center where students and faculty would come to study, learn and create. NDSU is a world-class university with a rich diversity of students and faculty from around the corner in North Dakota and from around the world. He got the university involved in economic growth activities that have benefited Fargo and North Dakota.

Chapman has been the best friend the students of NDSU have ever had. He put the students first, a position that was not always welcomed by certain politicians and commentators. And, the students responded. There are more than 14,000 students at NDSU. Chapman is a big reason why they have come.

Thanks to his leadership, those students are more a part of the life of our city than ever before. They proved it last spring. When Noah’s flood hit Fargo, only a major effort could save the city. There were two groups who made a huge difference. One of them was the North Dakota National Guard; their efforts were magnificent. The other was Joe’s Army, the students of NDSU. President Chapman called on his students to save Fargo, and save it, they did. Chapman and his troops really made the difference in winning the flood battle. They more than bought their way into Fargo and North Dakota society, and that was thanks to the leadership of Chapman.

Now, Chapman has been forced out of our university and our city. Some politicians and members of the Higher Ed Board are tripping over themselves to seal his fate. But, leaders like Chapman rarely are available. NDSU needs him, Fargo needs him, and North Dakota needs him. As the students said in 2006, “Please, Joe. Don’t go!”