‘Betting’ on others

With retirement of Laurie Betting, UND campus celebrates career of veracious leader and inspiring mentor

Laurie Betting

Betting will retire on Oct. 31 after 15 years of service to the University – and it’s been a busy 15 years. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Laurie Betting is packing up her office at the UND Center for Innovation. It certainly hasn’t been her first office on campus, but this will be her last.

It’s not just photos, paperweights, and other trinkets going into boxes. There’s a common denominator here.

“When you move a few offices over the years, you take a look at the things you’ve kept. Every one of them is related to a person and a memory,” Betting said, pointing to some greenery in her window. “[Former Health & Wellness Promotion Director] Jane Croeker gave me that plant. I’ve kept that thing alive since we opened the Wellness Center.”

Betting will retire on Oct. 31 after 15 years of service to the University, and it’s been a busy 15 years.

She currently balances a number of duties, including interim director of the Center for Innovation (CFI), special advisor to UND President Mark Kennedy, and member of the UND Game Day Experience Committee, but her UND resume also holds such titles as associate vice president for Health & Wellness and interim VP for Student Affairs.

And she’s been a juggernaut – a true leader in action.

“In her time at UND, Laurie has been a force of change in moving our campus forward,” President Kennedy said. “In my long service in academia, business and government, I’ve met very few people that match Laurie’s innate ability to get things done. She will be sorely missed.”

“Laurie’s willingness to step into whatever leadership roles she was asked to perform at UND is an example of the work ethic, performance values and ability she carries,” said CFI Foundation board member Ed Schafer, who worked closely with Betting as interim UND President in 2016. “I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to work with her and to be a friend.”

Well-suited for wellness

It’s evident that Betting has a couple of soft spots – her Grand Forks community and physical activity.

“The University of North Dakota was my backyard. I grew up going to the old Winter Sports Building (former home of the UND Hockey). We used to ride dirt bikes where the Wellness Center and Ralph Engelstad Arena stand now,” she said.

Betting combined those loves into a later-in-life UND college experience and then a professional career in physical therapy. The ultimate opportunity came in 2002, when she was hired as UND’s first Wellness Director. She formed a vision for the future of UND Health & Wellness, which would include the UND Student Wellness Center.

“I quickly met students who were passionate about this wellness idea, who were in the forefront of saying that we need to do something for this campus,” Betting said.

One of those students was Amanda Bentow, who, as Student Body Vice President, helped Betting garner support for a referendum to use student fees to pay for a state-of-the-art wellness facility.

“Laurie always encouraged us to begin with the end in mind, paint the picture for what we knew we wanted, and educate people and then give them a choice,” Bentow said. “It passed with overwhelming support, because people understood it was values-based and they had freedom to choose.”

Associate Dean of Students Cassie Gerhardt, who supervises the director of Wellness & Health Promotion, says that the words Student Wellness Center emblazoned on the building are a testament to Betting’s emphasis on students during the planning, construction, and programming of the cutting-edge space.

“Former UND Vice President of Student Affairs Gordon Henry always said, ‘But is it right for students?’” Gerhardt said. “Laurie lives by that same motto. She’s always made sure that students are engaged and at the heart of the facility, and that will be her legacy.”

Laurie Betting

Laurie Betting holds up a “three” at the latest Sioux Awards Banquet, representing three former student mentees who have gone on to receive Young Alumni Achievement Awards. From left to right: Amanda Bentow, Kayla Effertz Kleven, Laurie Betting and Eric Trueblood. Photo courtesy of Cassie Gerhardt.

Called to serve

Betting was set to retire more than a year ago, but put those plans on hold to serve the students as interim VP for Student Affairs.

When President Kennedy came on board later in 2016, Betting was named his special advisor and co-chair of the committee that would construct the One UND Strategic Plan. She received the University President’s Medal for that work.

“She helped bring together this very broad coalition of people and personalities, a huge swath of our campus who were very willing to contribute to the plan,” said Strategic Plan Co-chair Dana Harsell. “Her enthusiasm, her willingness to work hard, and her dedication ultimately helped us all create a very good product.”

This year, Betting also lent her group management skills to the Game Day Experience Committee, charged with developing a more electric environment for Fighting Hawks fans.

“We’re still not giving up on having her stay,” joked committee co-chair Mike Mannausau. “Laurie’s passion for UND athletics and this community is evident in the work that she does. She’s truly a professional, and it’s been a blast having her as a part of our team.”

Mentor minded

As her associates will attest, Betting’s most important role has always been that of mentor – honest, bold and inspiring.

Lacey Beckstead worked with Laurie as a marketing manager for Health & Wellness. They developed a #noshame campaign to help break down the stigma of mental health issues on campus, and served side-by-side on a community committee surrounding health crisis topics.

“I tried many times to tell her how great of a boss and leader she was, and she replied, ‘I like to think of myself as a mirror that I hold up when I meet with people so they can see their strengths within,’” Beckstead remembered.

Bentow remembers a piece of paper on which Betting charted out a future made conceivable by pursuing an MBA, which was not originally in her post-graduation plan.

“It showed at this point you can have this role, here’s where you’ll have your two kids – I wasn’t even married at the time,” Bentow laughed. “It was hilarious, but it gave me a vision for what was possible.”

Betting’s protégés flourish. At this year’s Sioux Awards Banquet, Laurie snapped a photo with three former mentees who went on to receive Young Alumni Achievement Awards – Bentow, Eric Trueblood, and Kayla Effertz Kleven – and who were all involved in the launch of the Wellness Center as students.

“Everybody was dreaming big and pulling in the same direction. We were inventing it together, and it was so powerful,” Betting said, pausing as tears welled. “It’s not just bricks and mortar.”

No slowing down

As Betting finishes packing boxes for her new Florida adventure, which will now include a basket full of North Dakota goodies from her co-workers, she’s looking forward to gathering new memories with family and her husband (and best friend) Brad.

“There has to be a better word than retiring,” Betting said. “Retiring sounds like slowing down, and there is no part of this journey that’s going to be about slowing down – it’s going to be about speeding up.”

Betting plans to stay connected and engaged with UND’s progress from afar – likely from the bow of her sailboat.

“I love what I see happening, and I love what the potential is, and I love that I had the opportunity to be involved in creating this new future for UND,” she said.