We know university presidents often walk around with a target on their back.
When something goes wrong, it’s easy to find the person at the top to blame. And that’s why their longevity in the president’s office is usually about as long as an average NFL running back’s career.
Kay Norton at the University of Northern Colorado has worn that target often in the past 15 years. When she announced her retirement earlier this week, it gives us time to reflect on her presidency.
Our conclusion is she left UNC in a better position than when she started.
Norton has had her share of controversy over the years. The past year in particular hasn’t been an easy one, and at times we have questioned the wisdom of her quest to build the $75 million Campus Commons building.
But from the beginning, Norton faced issues head-on as they arose. She has been a steadying force on campus, and when she took over for UNC President Hank Brown, a steady hand was exactly what the campus needed after several controversial decisions by Brown.
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Faculty vs. president squabbles are common across the country, but UNC Faculty Senate Chairman Stephen Luttmann said Norton has done “a lot of really fine things” during her tenure.
“Of course, I don’t agree with everything she’s done, but I think people will look back and miss her,” Luttman said.
Perhaps Norton’s greatest achievement has been to lead UNC through the troubled waters of severe declines in state taxpayer support of higher education. Some called Norton a leader who does her best work behind the scenes, and there’s no better evidence of that than her work to help UNC grow and expand while…
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