Legacy of an academic and aviation leader
Paul Lindseth, professor of aviation and former dean, retires after 37 years at the Odegard School
A letter written by Bruce Smith, dean emeritus of the John. D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, on the occasion of Paul Lindseth’s retirement party captured Lindseth’s enduring influence as a longtime UND Aerospace leader.
The letter was read aloud to partygoers by the school’s current dean, Bob Kraus.
“The status of the Odegard School as the preeminent aerospace college in the world is directly attributable to your efforts as the associate dean and dean,” Smith wrote. “I have often said that your position as associate dean was equivalent to all the other academic colleges’ deans at UND.”
“You led the entire academic side of the Odegard School, including research, federal and state-funded programs, direction of department chairs and the addition of a fifth department, Earth System Science & Policy,” Smith’s letter continued. “You transformed the school into a truly academic college with master’s degrees and doctoral programs in every discipline of the Odegard School.”
He finished his note by saying the late John Odegard, founder and first dean of UND Aerospace, would be proud of everything Lindseth accomplished in his nearly four decades at UND.
“Thank you for all you have done for me, the Odegard School, the aerospace industry and the state of North Dakota,” Smith said. “It was a remarkable run.”
Lindseth, who served under Smith’s deanship as assistant and associate dean for academics from 1999 until 2016, then succeeded Smith as dean through 2020, is retiring at the end of the semester.
Fun to fly
As with many who walk through the doors of UND’s western campus buildings, it was flight that first brought Lindseth to UND in 1985, where he was hired as an instructor.
The Silva, N.D., native had spent 10 years in the U.S. Air Force as a flight instructor and check pilot. He had extensive experience flying and training fellow pilots in planes, jets and helicopters.
But a full, active-duty career wasn’t Lindseth’s intention, so he maintained a position in the Air Force Reserve Command as he transitioned to living in Grand Forks, where Odegard’s flight training program was picking up steam.
“It was pretty neat to come on the scene and see John Odegard in action, with everything that was going on,” Lindseth recalled.
On his first visit to UND Flight Operations, Lindseth stepped onto the ramp and saw two Hughes 500 helicopters that Odegard had just purchased from the 1984 Summer Olympics. The numbers on them were “1-LA” and “2-LA,” named for the host city that year, Lindseth said. More important to UND’s newly hired flight instructor, they were jet helicopters.
“Boy, were they fun to fly,” he said, smiling.
An academic path
Lindseth would hold on to his flight instructor credentials until 2010, flying as many as 4,100 hours between his military and academic careers. But in 1988, he took his first steps toward academic administration by becoming an assistant professor of aviation.
He credits his wife, Glenda, with pushing him toward not only applying for a faculty position but also pursuing a doctorate, which he earned at the University of Michigan in the mid-1990s.
For her part, Glenda was bestowed the title of Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor in April 2022 after more than 30 years of service to the UND College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines.
“She told me to send in an application, and I was hired,” Lindseth said. “She was getting her doctorate at that time, and she said, ‘Well, you need to get your doctorate, as well.’”
With a master’s degree in management, which he earned before joining UND, Lindseth said he was intrigued by the intersection of education and management, especially when considering the burgeoning operations of the Odegard School.
According to Smith, Lindseth’s academic contributions were vital to carrying Odegard’s vision and legacy, following the founder’s passing in 1998.
“When I returned to UND, my experience in higher education was only as a graduate student and two years on the faculty of the Air Force Academy,” Smith wrote. “You carried me through the early years by filling in that gap in my experience. You provided the guidance, support, timely advice, honesty and friendship I needed to be successful.”
Kraus, who succeeded Lindseth in the deanship in early 2021, said Smith’s words and sentiments perfectly described Lindseth’s contributions to students, faculty and staff at the Odegard School.
“He paved the way for us to lead the nation as the premier program for aerospace sciences,” Kraus said. “Much of our college’s success today is due to Dr. Lindseth’s many years as a professor, associate dean and dean. We are grateful for his dedication, and I personally thank him for setting us up for continued growth and future success.”
Lindseth’s efforts in the early 2000s to secure a place for UND in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Center of Excellence for General Aviation Research represented a major milestone in terms of setting up for success.
By getting on the FAA’s shortlist for aviation research through the Centers of Excellence program, federal grants and further research funding became a standard for the Odegard School. According to Smith, eliminating those funding barriers helped elevate the school’s faculty to doctoral degrees and tenure-track careers.
“Now, nearly all faculty hold tenure and doctorates,” Smith said. “As a result, the Odegard School enjoys its status as a serious academic college.”
And since that time, UND Aerospace has leveraged its expertise and research capabilities to join other FAA Centers of Excellence, including UAS and technical training and human performance.
Longtime colleague Kent Lovelace, director of industry relations and Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Aviation, agreed that one of Lindseth’s lasting influences can be found in research opportunities and scholarship, particularly in the field of aviation.
“He was a leader who stayed under the radar, meaning he didn’t get emotional or bent out of shape when there were problems,” Lovelace remarked. “He had a quiet, calm sense of professionalism and tenacity to him that always kept the School’s interests at heart. He lifted the school in all respects, and he left it in a much better position than when he started in each of his positions.”
Dedicated to the mission
Delivering high-quality education at a reasonable cost to students has been integral to the UND Aerospace mission since its inception 54 years ago. Across the board, Lindseth’s colleagues agree that he never has strayed from that path.
“Paul was always concerned with students; he put an emphasis on that, as Odegard did,” Lovelace said. “He was brought in toward the beginning, and he saw the success of what we did and of our mission. He was dedicated enough to continue that.
“Those of us who were brought up under Odegard had those qualities instilled in us, and Paul is certainly an example.”
From Lindseth’s perspective, that mission has coupled with the prominent culture of safety at UND Aerospace. It’s at the forefront of everything the school does, he remarked.
Today, UND’s flight training operation is one of the only college programs in the country to have an FAA-compliant safety management system that is on par with the major airlines. Lindseth pointed out that data collection, in terms of safety management, continues to grow and make a difference in how flight training is managed. He’s also intrigued to see how UND Aerospace continues to lead in what has become a national discussion about pilots’ mental health and medical practices for aviators.
“There’s a focus on continual improvement that is within the culture, and it’s so fun to see that within the dedicated staff and faculty here at UND Aerospace,” Lindseth said. “So many have become long-term employees, even spending their whole careers here, because they’re dedicated to our mission.
“That reputation has brought to campus outstanding students from around the country and around the world. Given our current partnerships and connections within the industry, I think it’s exactly what Odegard wanted to see back in the ’90s, as far as our reputation being recognized and the demand that exists for our graduates.”