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Published March 04 2014

Forum editorial: Visionary leadership got it right

As the old Bison Sports Arena is replaced by the new Scheels Center over the next two years, it’s instructive to look back at overall progress at North Dakota State University during a decade or more. The center, which will be a state-of-the-art Division I basketball venue, is the latest jewel in NDSU’s crown of development that includes the indoor and outdoor Ellig track and field complexes, the rocking-to-the-rafters Fargodome home of Bison football, a world-class research park, a revitalized and diverse fine arts sector, a vibrant downtown Fargo campus, and an expanded array of undergraduate and postgraduate programs that did not exist 20 years ago.

None of it was by chance. The improvements took vision and work. Forward-thinking leaders on and off the campus had to overcome local naysayers and state policymakers who seemed satisfied with second-best or mediocre. Those latter attitudes frequently dominated debate in the Legislature, where raising higher education to a higher national profile seemed to be an alien concept among some lawmakers.

The good news is that visionaries, including former NDSU President Joseph Chapman and his supporters, prevailed. He said he would raise the university to Division I status, not only in athletics but also in academics and research. He and his administration did, and his successor has kept the school on that path. Anyone who knew NDSU 25 years ago, and sees it now, understands the difference.

Alums and supporters of NDSU have come to a place where expectations are high – Division I expectations for all facets of the university. So, of course, the inadequate Bison Sports Arena must be upgraded and expanded into the spectacular Scheels Center. So, of course, a student from anywhere on the globe can come to the campus and find excellent teachers in almost any discipline. So, of course, NDSU must rank among the top research schools in the nation. So, of course, sports programs will be competitive at the highest intercollegiate athletic levels. So, of course, serious North Dakota and out-of-state students who come to the Fargo campus will emerge with degrees that will be recognized as valuable anywhere in the nation.

The new basketball building is another indication of the broader base of support NDSU has earned, not only in sports but also in academics, research and business outreach. The changes bode well for the future of the university and for the state it serves.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.