CU’s New President Mark Kennedy Starts His Job With Long Day Of Campus Tours, Debriefings

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Mark Kennedy answers audience questions Wednesday April 24, 2019, at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

Just two months after a tumultuous and controversial interview process, former Minnesota congressman Mark Kennedy steps into his new post as the president of the University of Colorado. 

The one-time businessman and most recent president of the University of North Dakota will oversee 35,000 employees, 67,000 students and a $4.5 billion budget during his three-year contract leading CU’s four campuses.

The CU Board Of Regents voted in May on a party-line vote to confirm Kennedy as president. As the sole finalist, he came under fire with students and faculty, who challenged him on his past conservative voting record as a U.S. representative and his fundraising record. Crowds also questioned his commitment to inclusivity. During the forums and meetings, Kennedy pledged a collaborative approach and said he welcomes diversity and respects academic freedom. 

During a news conference after his selection in May, Kennedy said he knows he needs to earn the trust of the CU community.

“The order of the day is to build unity among regents, among the university, among the state,” Kennedy said.

The Board of Regents has said Kennedy will spend his first few months learning about the university, listening to constituents and engaging stakeholders.

On Monday, Kennedy will tour the home of CU Colorado Springs cyber security facilities, the Ent Center for the Arts and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. 

In the afternoon he’ll tour CU Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics where he’ll briefed on how students are involved in the institute and the campus’ engineering facilities. 

At CU Denver, he’ll meet with engineering students who are competing in the finals of the 2019 SpaceX Hyperloop Competition, and a program focused on creating and adapting technology for people with disabilities. 

Finally, he’ll be briefed on the School of Education’s rural education program.

Kennedy’s predecessor Bruce Benson retired Friday. He was the system's longest serving leader in more than six decades. The former Republican oilman was a controversial hire 10 years ago but earned respect among faculty, staff and students. 

In his final monthly letter to the CU community, Benson cited achievements including joining the Pac-12 athletic conference, the expansion of the Anschutz medical campus, cybersecurity research and record-setting enrollment and fundraising.Kennedy’s three-year contract at a $650,000 salary in the first year.