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Kris Engelstad McGarry talks about strained relationship with UND President

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Kris Engelstad McGarry talked to a WDAY reporter about her strained relationship with UND President Mark Kennedy, Tuesday April 16.2 / 2

GRAND FORKS — The head of the Engelstad Family Foundation, one of the University of North Dakota's biggest donors, spoke Tuesday, April 16, about ongoing issues related to the possible departure of President Mark Kennedy.

The foundation has given away more than $300 million in scholarships and grants. But UND won't see any donations until Kennedy resigns, Kris Engelstad McGarry told the Grand Forks Herald in March.

McGarry, whose parents Ralph and Betty Engelstad started the foundation in 2002, spoke Tuesday at the Hultberg Lectureship Series at the University of North Dakota.

Her visit to campus came amid uncertainty about the future of UND President Mark Kennedy, the already-embattled university head who attracted further backlash last week after announcing he was the sole finalist for presidency of the University of Colorado System.

Hundreds of students in Colorado are protesting against his potential hiring, and an official decision won't be announced for two weeks.

It has been reported that McGarry and Kennedy have had trouble agreeing on issues in the past. McGarry recently described her strained relationship with the current UND President to the Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board.

The Las Vegas philanthropist is eager to see him go, describing the relationship with the two of them as frustrating.

“We have the benefit of distance, even though we see what is happening . . . it's not a direct impact on us, it's a direct impact for the students,” McGarry said. “We can't hand money over if we don't trust the governance of it.”

The foundation has not had great relationships with the past three presidents at UND, but McGarry said President Kennedy became impossible to work with.

The foundation hopes the next chapter will be rebuilding a relationship with the school they love.

“I would hope that the selection committee takes thoughtful time to realize what hasn't worked here before," McGarry said.

McGarry said people have been cautious about bringing up President Kennedy with her, so she isn't entirely sure about how others feel about the situation.