Two Presidents video: Welcome, Andy Armacost, and thank you, Joshua Wynne

Friday’s message serves as sendoff to ‘Two Presidents’ video series as Armacost begins presidency


Editor’s note: UND’s Two Presidents – Incoming President Andy Armacost and Interim President Joshua Wynne – released the above Video Message to Campus on Friday, May 29. A transcript of the video is below.


Andy Armacost: Hi, this is incoming President Andy Armacost. I’m joined by our current president, Josh Wynne. And I wanted to let you all know that this (May 29) is my last day as a part-time employee of the University of North Dakota. On Monday, I’ll be able to call myself the president with great honor and pride.  

But on this last day, I thought I would turn it over to Josh to allow him to share his reflections upon this past year – what his position has meant to him and to the university. But first, Josh, I know that there was an important announcement made two days ago about another role that you’re taking on. Why don’t you fill us in? 

Joshua Wynne: Thanks, Andy. I’m really looking forward to you arriving officially on Monday, and just when I thought it was safe to go outside, something else came up. So, what I’m going to do is that the governor has asked me to be the Chief Health Strategist for the state of North Dakota. So this will be a part-time appointment, in addition to my ongoing responsibilities to you and the university as the Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.  

So in this role, I’ll be spending about half of my time working with a whole variety of constituencies to help devise a strategy for Public Health for the state of North Dakota going forward.  

This will be a time-limited appointment. So I’ll be working on it from your first start date – that is, June 1 – through the end of January 2021. And in that eight-month period, the governor expects me and my colleagues to come up with a plan for public health for the entire state.  

I’m excited about that. But I’m really excited with ultimately getting back full-time to my first love, which is the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences.  

So that’s something to look forward to. But I’m also very pleased to look back on our last year, and for half of it, our last year together. And I think we’ve accomplished a lot at UND.  

There are three major hallmarks, I would say, of the last year of my interim presidency. The first was that after the initial transition period, UND was in a little bit of a turmoil based on what had happened in the past. And I’m very pleased that I and our colleagues in senior administration, faculty, staff and students settled the university down and got it focused on moving forward.  

The second big accomplishment over the year that I’m proud of was quite frankly, the transition period that you and I worked together on, so that we had two presidents working together for the common good, and that worked out even better than you and I initially anticipated – especially in view of the third big event that occurred, which was obviously the COVID-19 pandemic.  

And I’m extremely proud of the way faculty, staff and students came together in the face of that challenge to really address it and show that we truly are stronger together, and that OneUND has real meaning and real substance. So, it’s really been a terrific year.  

There any number of hallmarks. One was early on: there was some question, if you recall, about the new Memorial Union and the amount that students were contributing to it from a financial standpoint. I’m very pleased that working with Jed Shivers, our Chief Financial Officer, as well as the UND Alumni Association & Foundation and our student leadership, we were able to come up with a plan for financing the Memorial Union that put less of a burden on the students. So I’m very pleased with that.  

I’m also very pleased to represent UND as part of the State Board of Higher Education Research Committee that will work with the State Board to really help formulate a strong agenda moving forward the research enterprise at the University of North Dakota.  

This is a little parochial, related also to the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. But I am very proud that our own Dr. Don Warne and his colleagues launched the world’s first Ph.D. program in Indigenous Health.  

I also want to really thank again Werner and Colleen Nistler, who are among our most generous donors. But they’re more than just generous donors. As I’ve come to know them over the last year, they are also humble and wonderful people.  

I hope the entire UND community really gets to know them better as things move forward – not just for their generosity, but for the wonderful values that they embody. And they’re generosity is amazing as well.  

I’m also very pleased with the partnership that we have with the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, led by DeAnna Carlson Zink and her colleagues, for an amazing year of alumni giving, with a total of almost $68 million in donations.  

I’m also very pleased that the Foundation had the Angel Fund set up to assist in the time of this COVID challenge.   

So these are all wonderful accomplishments. But the year obviously hasn’t been without challenges; and the largest one is obviously the pandemic that disrupted our campus. But through a lot of hard work, we kept the campus open; we kept instruction going; we kept discovery going. So I’d really like to thank everyone who helped make that happen.  

Obviously, there has been financial impact from this. But we’ve tried to work together to minimize the negative aspects of the financial issue, and to really try to position the university for moving forward.  

So I really do think, Andy, that you’re coming in at a propitious time. Your background and experience will serve you well as you help move the University forward.  

But I have to tell you that I’m turning over the reins of the University with a great sense of anticipation and excitement, and I think the future is going to be even more positive than the past.  

So I wish you all the luck. I look forward to continuing to work with you. And I thank you for all the contributions you’ve made so far to UND. And we look forward to even more in the future.    

Welcome aboard. And thank you for being part of UND. 

Andy Armacost: Josh, thanks for those kind words and the great summary of your impact on on the campus and the local community.  

Let me express my personal appreciation to you for the leadership, mentorship and friendship that you’ve offered me and Kathy during this challenging and rewarding time as we lead up to June 1. I look forward to the collaboration that you and I and the rest of the senior leaders on the campus will forge over the next many years.  

And also as we work together, not just on the strategic issues, but also on the near-term issues as we work with our pandemic planning group, and really working on a daily basis to make sure that we can launch the fall semester safely with the resumption of on-campus classes, as well as continuing our great online offerings as well.  

I also encourage all of our listeners today, all of our viewers, to stay tuned over the summer for all the updates that will exist on our blog for the UND Coronavirus Updates, and then also a new website that we’re rolling out for the UND Restart. So it’s our UND Restart website; take a look at our web pages to make sure you get the the updates that you will need as we move into the fall semester.  

Kathy and I are eager to get to Grand Forks to join the community, both at UND and also within the greater Grand Forks area. We will arrive the week of the 22nd of June; COVID has slowed us down as well.    

But I look forward to taking the role of President on the first of June – remotely, just as many of you are working as well.  

I will sign off at this point. Let me just say, enjoy the summer. We’ll be in touch very soon. And just always remember that together, we are one.   

Joshua Wynne: Thank you so much, Andy! Welcome aboard. And to the entire university community, remember, stay safe, stay connected and stay in touch. Bye-bye, everyone.