By Tim Leeds
Members of the community, with no dissenting voices, told Dr. Geoffrey Gamble Friday that they want Dr. Alex Capdeville appointed permanent chancellor of Montana State University-Northern.
"For me this is a remarkable occurrence," Gamble, president of Montana State University-Bozeman, said. "I'm genuinely impressed What I'm hearing from you uniformly is that Alex is the right leader."
Gamble said this might be the first time he has heard an entire campus come together, with the business community and local governments, to unanimously support someone on a campus.
In his opening remarks at the meeting, which started at 1:30 p.m. at Donaldson Commons on the Northern campus, Gamble told the audience that he had come to hear what faculty, staff, administration and students of the university and others in the community think about the institution and about the leadership issue there. Last fall Capdeville was appointed chancellor in a two-year fixed term, which ends July 2002.
Gamble said no decision has been made how to proceed to fill permanently the position. He said once he knows how to move forward he doesn't think they should deliberate for three months, six months or a year, but that it is important to hear from the community before moving forward.
Terry Munson, professor in the business department, presented a document to Gamble signed by more than 100 faculty, administration and staff at the university giving Capdeville a vote of confidence. He said the leadership Capdeville has shown so far in the position and the attitude on the campus is why they created the document.
Judy Bricker of the Alumni Association also presented a letter from association President Gerry Veis formally requesting that Capdeville be appointed permanent chancellor. One of the points raised, which was also brought up by other people at the meeting, was that it would be a waste of money to conduct another search for a chancellor when there is a person already in the position that is supported by the community.
Members of the student body, local business community and local governments said that their groups also support Capdeville and want him as the permanent chancellor.
There were few questions or comments raised that did not directly compliment Capdeville for his ability or performance, or ask that he be appointed permanent chancellor. Even those who did not compliment him did not speak against Capdeville or against his being made permanent chancellor.
Other issues raised included asking why funding athletics continues while cutting programs and faculty and why an institution considered a technical university has no math degree. Gamble said that while he was listening to those questions, his purpose Friday was to get local comments on the leadership issue to help decide how to proceed.
"I'm not here to solve your problems for you," he said.
Several people said it is difficult for the institution to move forward and focus on growth and improvement when the leadership is changing every couple of years. Roger Stone of the computer information systems department said Northern has had five presidents in the last 10 years, making it impossible to focus consistently on improvements.
"We need some time to breathe," Stone said. "We've got a good guy here, provided he wants to stay here. Give the college a chance to grow."
Gamble said that while the response at Friday's meeting was basically unanimous, he will not take any action until everyone in the area has an opportunity to let him know their views, but he will not delay more than is necessary.
"I have to be very deliberate to allow the community the chance to communicate with me ," he said. "This campus deserves good, quick action."
Gamble's mailing address is MSU President Dr. Geoffrey Gamble, PO Box 172420, Bozeman MT 59717-2420; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org