Northern looks to replace retiring Provost Joe Callahan
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Montana State University-Northern is searching for a replacement for its provost, who is ending a relationship with Havre's university that goes back to 1973. Joe Callahan, who left in 1986 and came back to Northern in a two-year interim position as provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs in 2007 — and has stayed an extra year — has announced his retirement effective June 30. He said he will return to Dickinson, N.D., where his wife, Dr. Kim Callahan, has a private practice as an audiologist. Callahan said Thursday he decided that he was ready to end his long career in education. "After 39 years, it is a good time to look at retirement and a good time for transition at Northern," he said. Frank Trocki, chancellor of Northern, said a search got under way for Callahan's replacement in December, and the pool of applicants should be narrowed down later this month. "Four hours after we posted (the position) we had our first hit and a person applied," he said, adding that about 40 people have applied to date. He said he understands Callahan's being ready to retire and wished him well, and commended the work he has done in the last three years. He added that he would rather have Callahan stay. "Let's face it, Joe has done an outstanding job. He knows the community, he knows the people," Trocki said. Trocki said his intention is to have the new person in place by June 1, giving Callahan a month to work with his replacement. "They would be the number two person in terms of the organization, very critical, very significant," he said. Trocki said the provost and vice chancellor leads The academic direction of the university, working closely with faculty, staff and students. Callahan said he has seen some major successes at Northern in the last three years, although that is overshadowed by the recent budget situation, with the state government warning of declining funds. One major advance is in the area of Northern's relationships with community colleges, he said. He listed an agreement Northern has to offer its fouryear diesel program at Mid South Community College in West Memphis, Ark., and agreements wi th Medicine Hat College in Alberta. Callahan said he believes there is a strong potential for Northern to pick up international students, particularly in its agreements with Medicine Hat College. He cited Northern's completion of three accreditation visits this fall as a major accomplishment. Northern was accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the engineering and technology accreditor ABET, and is still in the process of accreditation by the state Office of Public Instruction for its education programs. He said Northern has experienced growth in online programming, both in courses offered and students enrolled. He said he expects that to continue. "There are so many online programs that it will be necessary to carve out a niche in future online delivery as well as traditional face-to-face programming," Callahan said. "Dean Janice Brady and her team will be critical to the growth of online programming, and I am optimistic on the opportunities to allow Northern faculty to shine in that regard, " He said one example is a new online program for Northern's business administration degree. He said another strong point has been the growth of Northern's branch c a m p u s a t Lewistown, primarily offering nursing programs but also with classes in business and general education. "Lewistown is a very strong supporter," Callahan said. He said that the main challenge he sees in the next few years is facing the declining state budget and facing stiff competition with other universities in attracting students. "Our major challenge is our budget, in the near future; operating within the confines of budget reductions and a continued focus on enrollment," he said. His three stints working at Northern span the leadership of nine presidents and chancellors: J.R. Crowley, Duane Leach, H. Warren. Gardner, James H.M. Erickson, William Merwin, Alex Capdeville, Rolf Grosseth, and now Trocki. He also gave special thanks to one member of the Northern faculty and staff. "A special mentor to me in my career and personal life is Dr. August W. Korb, former assistant vice president for academic affairs at NMC, a Havre resident and outstanding educator," said Callahan. Callahan, who started his academic career teaching at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, came to Havre as an administrator at the university, then Northern Montana College, in 1973. In 1975, he left to pursue studies for a doctoral degree, returning in 1977 as a dean, at which time he met his wife. The couple's three sons, Joey, Michael and Ryan, were born in Havre. In 1986, Callahan left Havre, taking a dean position at Dickinson State University and later was named vice president of academic affairs at the university. Callahan said he was offered the position of provost in 2007 by Chancellor Capdeville, who was looking to replace Cheri Jimeno, who took the position of president of Western New Mexico University. "It was an exciting challenge and opportunity for me to come back to Havre and hel p Northern at a critical time," Callahan said. "I have been blessed to work with wonderful people in my 39 years of higher education, and the Montana University System is very special in my heart." After Capdeville retired at the end of 2008, Callahan said, interim Chancellor Groseth asked him to stay another year to help with the transition to new leadership. His stay in Havre has helped him re-connect with the community, with which he has maintained ties. Kim Callahan, who wrote "The Havre Song" she for the Timely Trio, whose members are herself, Dena Tippets and Mavis Filler, still regularly returns to Havre. But, he said, it was time to retire and return to Dickinson to be with Kim. He said that a personal tragedy also helped him to make the decision — the couple's son Michael died in an accident in Reno, Nev., in August 2008. "(That) led to a slightly earlier decision along with the feeling that this is just the 'right time,'" Callahan said. " I have many, many hobbies and interests to pursue. I hope to be in constant touch with the wonderful people of the Havre community, and Kim and I look forward to many visits to Havre."