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University of Jamestown president to retire

Dr. Robert Badal will be retiring from his post as president of the University of Jamestown. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service1 / 2
Dr. Robert Badal, center, and his wife, Donna, to his right, have been big fans of the University of Jamestown Jimmie athletics, attending games and often sitting among a crowd of friends. Here he attends a game on Feb. 10, 2018. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service2 / 2

JAMESTOWN, N.D.—Dr. Robert Badal credits implementing the Journey to Success program in 2007 with helping the University of Jamestown, its students and himself reach the level of achievement they have today.

"It is a concept that started to change the way we thought about ourselves," he said. "After developing that idea, and getting it implemented, I started having more fun."

The Journey to Success is a self-assessment and mentoring program designed to help the student find his or her "calling" in life, Badal said.

Badal is retiring at the end of February after serving nearly 16 years as president of the University of Jamestown. He said the decision to retire was easier because of the successes the university has enjoyed in recent years and the staff in place.

"This has gone about as well as it can," he said. "The decision to retire is a combination of becoming old and realizing you're not the only person who can run a college. The worst thing we can be is complacent."

Polly Peterson, previously the executive vice president of the university, has been named to succeed Badal.

Since his start at the university in 2002, the university has acquired or built six new buildings. Most recently, the Harold Newman Arena was dedicated on the campus. Other new acquisitions include apartment buildings in Jamestown and the construction of buildings on the Jamestown campus and at Fargo. The school has also updated almost all the rest of the campus' structures. The school also made upgrades academically.

"We've added majors and changed the levels all the way up to a doctorate. That wasn't contemplated when I came in 2002," Badal said.

The changes also included updating the name Jamestown College to the University of Jamestown in 2013.

"It wasn't part of the plan when I came because I didn't want to tamper with (the school's) identity," he said. "There was never anything wrong with Jamestown College, but maybe it limited how we and others thought of ourselves."

Carrie Newman Ness, member of the University of Jamestown Board of Trustees, said she had supported the name change.

"It was both an image change and a physical change," she said, referencing the expansion to a Fargo campus offering physical therapy programing.

Ness said listening is among Badal's greatest strengths.

"He's easy to work with and a good listener," she said. "He also has a vision of what he wants the university to be."

Badal said listening made up the biggest part of his time for the first years of his term.

"I started by listening to the people who were part of the history of the school," he said.

Badal referred to his first years as "getting the college moving into the future."

"We wanted to take the success of the late '90s and turn that into a better future," he said. "We were building reputations, I wasn't interested in efficiency over reputation."

The Reiland Fine Arts Center opened just before Badal's arrival. The school was in the midst of a capital campaign aimed at building a new business and technology building.

"We had a $20 million capital campaign," he said. "A consultant told the board (of trustees) that was about as far as we could go."

Instead, the goal was set at $30 million.

"We turned something that was a goal into a reality," Badal said. "We raised $34 million and built the Unruh and Sheldon (Center for Business and Computer Science) building."

At this time, the university has raised more than $50 million toward the $60 million goal of the Opening Doors Transforming Lives capital campaign. The campaign will build vitally needed facilities, grow the endowment, fund scholarships, provide support for faculty and create new programs of distinction for the University of Jamestown, according to the school's website.

Badal said the new buildings, programs and sports during his tenure have contributed to the success of the school.

"Being here for awhile affords one the luxury of fulfilling a whole set of dreams," he said. "The school is much better known nationally and in the state now than in the past."

Bob Piatz, also a member of the University of Jamestown Board of Trustees, credited Badal with the university's growth.

"His leadership has taken the university to a new level," he said. "The endowments have grown significantly, we've built new buildings and renovated old buildings, we have new degrees and expanded athletic teams. He's touched every aspect of the university and done it well."

Badal said his years at the University of Jamestown have been his way of serving the community.

"Something that gives me satisfaction is knowing I'm helping people," he said. "I've had a great opportunity to be here and learn from so many great people. I feel good about that."

The future includes moving to a lake home in Wisconsin and thinking about what he plans to do.

"I'm not making any announcement," Badal said. "I'd like to take time to decide how I'd like to spend my time doing something that gives me the satisfaction of knowing I'm helping people."

If you go

What: Dr. Robert Badal retirement celebration

When: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19

Where: Harold Newman Arena Lobby

Details: Program at 5:30 p.m.; refreshments will be served.