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When Larry Skogen leaves Bismarck State College next year after serving as its president for a decade, he'll be leaving behind a legacy of new buildings and programs.

Skogen announced last week he will be retiring effective June 30, 2020. He told the Tribune on Monday he plans to do more research and writing as a historian — a field he's passionate about.

"It's actually been a decision that has been in the process for some time," said Skogen, 66. "I am of full retirement age now."

Skogen replaced Donna Thigpen in 2007. He took a hiatus from 2013 to 2015 while he served as interim chancellor of the North Dakota University System.

Skogen recalls telling his employees when he started at BSC that he had "walked into a well-oiled machine."

"It was an excellent (administrative) team here and they had the right pieces in place, but to capitalize on those pieces, we had many conversations about what infrastructure we needed," he said.

Since then, Skogen has overseen tremendous growth at the school, including a number of capital improvements and building projects.

In 2008, he saw the completion of the National Energy Center of Excellence. In 2010, in partnership with Bismarck Public Schools, the Career Academy was built on the BSC campus.

This year, BSC officials, including Skogen, successfully petitioned the state Legislature for $8.9 million for a new health sciences building. The school also recently got approval from the State Board of Higher Education to become a polytechnic institution and offer four-year bachelor of applied science degrees in technical fields.

"Each year, we will continue to add four-year degree programs in technical fields that business and industry says they need," he said.

Skogen has outlasted the average tenure of American college presidents. College leaders in 2016 on average had served in their current positions for 6 ½ years, according to the American College President Study.

Skogen said he's stayed for so long in part because of his leadership team, as well as the "amazing community."

"I don't know why I wouldn't have stayed," he said.

Despite all of the successes at BSC, Skogen also has seen some hardships, including when he had to cut 52 positions two years ago due to statewide budget cuts.

"Institutionally, it was very difficult, because I had to ask some very senior people to retire, because you can replace them with much more junior people with a lot less money. You lose that institutional knowledge in that process," he said.

During that time, Skogen himself taught classes and served as an interim provost.

"In times like that, everybody lifts a little harder. But we survived it," he said.

With about a year to go before his official retirement date, Skogen said his priorities remain in working with his leadership team to ensure initiatives continue to move forward.

"My goal is to work with the team to make sure that all of these things are in place, because they should be on autopilot by the time I leave so the next person coming in doesn't find a clunky machine," he said. "I want the next person to have that same well-oiled machine that I had when I got here."

University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott commended Skogen on his accomplishments, including working with state budget cuts while also being "innovative and thinking of the future."

Hagerott also praised Skogen for stepping up to serve as interim chancellor before he started. Skogen took over for Hamid Shirvani, who endured criticism over his management style and clashed with university presidents before his contract was bought out by the State Board of Higher Education.

"He was interim chancellor for two years at a crucial period," Hagerott said, "almost a crisis on instability in the chancellor's office and the board itself, that he stepped in ... and steadied the ship, so to speak."

Hagerott said the State Board of Higher Education will likely form a presidential search committee in the coming months to find Skogen's replacement. Board Chairman Nick Hacker did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Though they likely won't find a candidate with the same amount of experience as Skogen, Hagerott said, he is confident they'll be able to find his successor before his retirement date. During that time, the board also will be looking for a permanent replacement for former University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy, whose position was filled on an interim basis when he left to take the University of Colorado presidency.

"(With Kennedy) we had 12 days, in this case we have 12 months," Hagerott said.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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Education and Health Reporter