Former NMU chief Vandament well deserving of tribute

Vandament Arena is named for former Northern Michigan University President William Vandament, who was instrumental in securing a special place for Wildcat volleyball on campus. That arena, in fact, is unique in Michigan in that it’s dedicated solely for volleyball games.

But Vandament was so much more. The former NMU president, who died in April 2013, was honored during a celebration of his life Monday in the arena that bears his well-respected name.

Vandament was NMU’s 10th president, serving from 1991 to 1997. A longtime university administrator, Vandament was interim president before being asked to become full-time president in 1992.

Almost immediately after becoming the interim head, Vandament was faced with budget challenges, including reduced state appropriations. Those fiscal challenges led to Vandament making some hard decisions, including budget cuts.

But Vandament also was responsible for the university’s flat tuition rate, which continues today. He set up a temporary office at NMU to help community leaders jump-start the conversion of K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base to civilian use.

Dr. Daniel Mazzuchi, director emeritus of the Michigan State University medical program, said the memory of the Vandament era goes beyond research programs and budgets. He spoke of his friend at the campus service: “Our memories are of Bill Vandament the man – the good guy, a twinkling smile, a born leader, a friend.”

Following the end of the service, David Haynes, NMU interim president, and his wife, NMU Vice President for Advancement Martha Haynes, unveiled a memorial plaque that will be placed outside Vandament Arena. With Vandament having expressed his wish to have his ashes stay on campus, they will be placed behind the plaque.

Those are physical reminders of the former president who accomplished so much to help NMU. Maybe more important are the intangible reminders of his legacy – transparency on campus, spending time with students and encouraging input from the NMU community.

Those are qualities that should endure at NMU, and in fact, on campuses everywhere.