NMU picks president

MARQUETTE – When Northern Michigan University presidential candidate finalist Fritz Erickson woke up Tuesday morning, he had a plan.

Knowing the NMU Board of Trustees would elect one of four finalists as the university’s next president, Erickson and his wife, Jan, decided to begin driving to Marquette in the morning from downstate Big Rapids where Erickson works for Ferris State University as the vice president and provost for academic affairs.

Erickson told NMU board Chairman Rick Popp that if Popp called him with good news, he’d keep going. If Popp called to say he wasn’t their choice, he’d just “take a left,” and head to his cottage instead.

He got the call from Popp at roughly 11 a.m. Tuesday to keep going.

Erickson was named NMU’s 15th president by a unanimous vote of the board during a special meeting that began at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“Our goal was to find the best person who is the best for Northern Michigan University at this particular time, with the set of needs that we have,” said Trustee H. Sook Wilkinson, who headed the Presidential Search Advisory Committee. “And in the end, the board deliberated and came to the conclusion that Fritz Erickson was the best person at this very particular time.”

Before taking the vote, Popp informed the board that finalist Robert Ackerman, a former dean of the Wayne State University law school and current law school professor, had withdrawn his name from contention. Also in the running were Cynthia Pemberton, provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of education at Dickinson State University in Dickinson, N.D., and Gregory Cant, founding dean of the Offutt School of Business and Robert J. Johnson chairman in economics and business administration at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.

The board gave glowing reviews of Erickson before taking a vote, with several board members expressing their “whole-hearted” support for him.

“When I read through all of these 54 resumes, I went, ‘Wow, this Fritz Erickson, every box is checked. He’s almost perfect. I really have to see this guy in person to see if he’s as good as he is on paper,'” said Trustee Stephen Adamini, who also sat on the search committee. “And then we interviewed him … and he didn’t disappoint.”

The board also highly praised the work of interim President David Haynes over the past two years as he oversaw the negotiation of three labor agreements, the construction of the new Jamrich Hall and an overhaul of enrollment services, among other things.

At the end of the meeting, the board voted to have Popp and Executive Committee Chairwoman L. Garnet Lewis work together on a contract for Erickson that would be approved by the full board at a later meeting.

A special welcome was also had for Erickson and his wife Tuesday afternoon, after they arrived in Marquette. Students, faculty, staff and community members got their chance to shake hands with Erickson for the first time as the president-elect of the university.

During the brief ceremony, in which Popp praised the work of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee – which narrowed the field of 54 candidates using 15 different factors – Erickson said he was never happier to be prevented from spending time at his cottage.

“I’m so deeply appreciative of the welcoming that both Jan and I have received,” Erickson said. “We are just absolutely delighted to be a part of the NMU community, part of the Marquette community and part of the Upper Peninsula. This is really a dream come true for us.”

With a plan to have Erickson in place by July 1, he said his first order of business will be getting to know the university.