GRAND FORKS — The Engelstad family plans to pull donations from the University of North Dakota until President Mark Kennedy is removed from office.
In an interview with the Grand Forks Herald Friday, Kris Engelstad McGarry said the Engelstad Foundation will give no direct funds to the university until Kennedy is no longer there.
“Frankly, the governance and the leadership isn’t there, so our confidence is less than it should be,” she said.
The Engelstad Foundation supports the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the hockey program and student scholarships at UND, programs that McGarry said the foundation will continue to support.
During an interview with Forum News Service blogger Rob Port, McGarry said Kennedy has “alienated donors” and has “given pay raises to people and changed their job titles to suit him.”
Last year, Kennedy bumped up the pay for staffer Angelique Foster by $30,000 and promoted her to chief of staff.
“If (Kennedy) has demonstrated this behavior over and over and over again, where are his bosses?” McGarry told Port.
Speaking to the Herald, McGarry also expressed frustration with a positive midyear review given by North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott concerning Kennedy. McGarry said when she read the reports about the review she was disappointed it did not address negative publicity surround the university and Kennedy.
“I thought ‘these are people who don’t care about UND,’” she said. “At some point, they are his bosses. They are the only people that have the ability to say enough is enough.”
However, McGarry stopped short of saying Kennedy should be fired.
“I don’t ever want to say somebody should be fired,” she said. “But I do believe there is accountability for your job performance, and he has underperformed consistently. So, if that means that his contract is not renewed or his contract is called up, those are hard decisions to make, but that’s the decisions that bosses make about people they hire.”
McGarry said she voiced her concerns about Kennedy to the board in a “more general way” in the past, but added she has not heard from anybody since.
“I don’t know that they’re terribly interested in donors,” she said. “I guess that they just assume that there will always be somebody there to foot the bill.”
McGarry also expressed frustration over Kennedy’s handling of the Engelstads’ $110 million donation for the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Kennedy “didn’t like the structure of the original gift from my dad and thought it … wasn’t fair to the university,” McGarry told Port.
In a statement, UND spokesman David Dodds said Kennedy and the university community “are deeply appreciative of the amazing generosity that’s been extended by the Engelstad family over the years.”
“We also very much appreciate the Engelstad family’s passion for UND and its students, and that those (feelings) are so strongly tied to a place we all love, rather than a specific person,” Dodds said.
Last May, McGarry said that communication between her and Kennedy has been "quite hostile at times."
She said if that relationship did not improve, funding for the school could be in jeopardy.
Later that month, Kennedy met with McGarry in Las Vegas to discuss the usage agreement between the school and the Ralph Engelstad Arena and RE Arena Inc., the entity that owns the building. The usage agreement was left largely the same. Ticket revenues between UND and RE Arena Inc. are split, with RE Arena Inc. still receiving 52 percent of the revenues while UND receives the other 48 percent, according to the agreement.
Since that meeting, McGarry said she has had no conversations with Kennedy.
“I have happily not had any conversation with him at all,” she said. “Nor would I because there’s nothing for us to talk about.”