Getting to know President Kennedy

Mark Kennedy
Mark Kennedy


The Grand Forks Herald is hosting the first “Coffee with Kennedy” on Thursday, July 7, 10 a.m. in the Grand Forks Herald Community Room to help welcome President Kennedy.  The public is welcome.

Mark Kennedy began his duties July 1 as the 12th President of the University, succeeding Interim President Ed Schafer and President Robert Kelley, who retired on January 14, 2016. Kennedy was appointed to the position by the State Board of Higher Education on March 15, 2016.

Kennedy came to UND from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., where since 2012 he was Director of the Graduate School of Political Management and Professor. His teaching and research addressed issues of how organizations can engage governments and societies around the world.

A native of Benson, Minnesota, Kennedy earned a B.S. degree at St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, and an MBA with distinction at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He then served as an executive with several firms, including Pillsbury, and today’s Macy’s.

From 2001 to 2007, Kennedy served in the U.S. House of Representatives, first for Minnesota’s Second District and then for its Sixth District. He served on the Financial Services, Transportation and Agriculture Committees, and established a reputation for bipartisanship. Kennedy was then appointed to the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations, serving under both Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama.

From 2007 to 2010, Kennedy served as the Global Retail Business Development Lead for Accenture, a global management, consulting and technology firm. From 2010 to 2013, he lectured and led research projects at the University of Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, the London Business School and others, and served as an Executive in Residence at the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School.

UND President Mark Kennedy with First Lady Debbie Kennedy. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.
UND President Mark Kennedy with First Lady Debbie Kennedy. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.


Kennedy is the founder of the Economic Club of Minnesota and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Chatham House, an independent policy institute based in London. He founded the Mark Kennedy Frontiers of Freedom Lecture Series at St. John’s University.

Kennedy’s book, tentatively titled “Engaging to Win ― When to Collaborate, When to Compete, Succeeding at Both,” will be published by Columbia Business School Press in spring 2017. In it, he introduces the concept of “shapeholders” to the field of business strategy. A shapeholder is a political, regulatory, media or activist actor with no stake in an organization’s success, but great ability to shape its opportunities and risks.

Kennedy is the third generation of his family to live in North Dakota. His grandmother helped homestead outside Tioga in the early 1900s, and his parents lived in Golva and Hunter, during which time his older sister was born in Fargo.

First Lady Debbie Kennedy is a native of Hawley, Minnesota. They met at the Minnesota State Fair as high school 4-H ambassadors. Debbie Kennedy graduated from North Dakota State University with a double major in home economics and textile and clothing, and from George Washington University with a master’s degree in costume design. They have four adult children.

— Compiled by Peter Johnson, Executive Associate Vice President Media Relations Coordinator/Community Relations Officer