NMU’s Vandament was right leader at right time

We join the very large number of residents and Northern Michigan University alumni in mourning the recent passing of Bill Vandament, who served as president of NMU from June 1991 until 1997. Vandament died April 20 at his home in Signal Hill, Calif., at the age of 81.

Vandament – he was Bill to many who knew him – was initially hired as intermin president at NMU but stayed on as permanent president when asked to do so by the university Board of Trustees. His management style was marked by compassion, knowledge and a deep affection for NMU and it’s students.

“The NMU family and those who knew him throughout the Upper Peninsula will be thinking fondly of Bill and sending our prayers and deep sympathy to (his wife) Margery, as well as their daughters, family members and friends,” NMU interim president David Haynes said for a Mining Journal story.

Vandament’s tenure at NMU was one of transition and fiscal challenge. A $1.3 million reduction in state appropriations led to tough decisions such as whether to open the Superior Dome as planned. Ultimately, he had to cut $2.8 million and eliminate 49 jobs. His legacy includes implementation of a flat tuition structure, which is still in use today.

Vandament was a widely respected figure on and off the NMU campus, positive currency he reinforced by including the entire community in difficult decisions, when they needed to be made. He was popular, too, with students and occasionally joined the campus pep band during hockey and basketball games. The Vandament Arena, where Wildcat volleyball is played, is named for the former president.

Although we suspect some have forgotten, Bill Vandament arrived on campus and into the greater Marquette community during tough times, when campus leadership was being questioned across a broad spectrum of issues. He changed all that, restored NMU’s sense of continuity and confidence and was the steady hand on the tiller until his retirement.

He will be genuinely missed.