By Ron VandenBoom
MSU-Northern chancellor Mike Rao expressed sadness Tuesday over the loss of Montana State University President Mike Malone.
Rao said he was notified early Tuesday morning of the heart attack that took the life of the 59-year-old president and noted that he was still coming to terms with the loss.
"I can honestly tell you that I have never felt more sad about losing anyone with whom I've had to work," Rao said. "He was second only to family to me."
Rao said he had never worked for a better boss than Malone and had grown very close to him since coming to Northern.
Rao recalled the time when he was a finalist candidate for the position of Northern chancellor and how Malone would call him every day to encourage him and ask whether he was going to take the job.
"Mike Malone was almost the biggest factor, aside from the people on campus, in my accepting the position," Rao said.
He also recalled their meeting during Rao's evaluation.
Rao said he expected to receive some constructive criticism, as is typical at evaluations. Instead, Rao said, Malone just congratulate him on having an incredible year.
"He was great at putting himself in someone else's shoes," Rao said. "He was incredibly sensitive to other people. I will always have a very special place in my heart for him."
Rao said his heart goes out to the Malone family and he added that he plans attending the funeral when the date is announced.
Rao said it was too early to speculate on what impact Malone's passing might have on Northern.