Special Edition
for Wedneday, March 24, 2004

NMU Board names new president

Les Wong is Northern Michigan University’s 13th president. The NMU Board of Trustees unanimously approved his appointment at a special meeting this morning and he accepted the offer.

Wong has served as vice president for academic affairs at Valley City State University in North Dakota since 1999. VCSU is the state system’s “model” campus for curriculum innovation emphasizing technology. It was also the second university in the nation to implement a 100 percent laptop computer initiative.

His previous administrative positions include provost and academic vice president, along with six months as interim president, at the University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo; and academic dean at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., where he started as a faculty member.

Wong is expected to begin serving as NMU president on or before July 1. He hopes to "exploit technology" to begin some advance preparations before he arrives on campus.

"We are thoroughly excited and look forward to joining Northern Michigan University," said Wong during a telephone interview from his office, with his wife, Phyllis, by his side. "The thing that really sold us on Northern was the spirit of the people, the university's student-centered approach, and its reputation for quality academics. I really want to thank the board, the university and the community for their confidence in offering me this opportunity. I also hope people appreciate the incredible job that Mike Roy has done as interim president. I look forward to working with him and other members of the team."

Phyllis Wong, who serves as director of online learning at Valley City State University, said she quickly became enamored with the university and surrounding area during their campus visit last month.

"I had a chance to get out in the community and visit with local residents," she said. "They are very friendly and they have a great sense of pride in where they live. I was intrigued by their spirit."

Les Wong holds a doctorate in educational psychology from Washington State University, a master’s in experimental psychology from Eastern Washington, and a bachelor’s in psychology from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. He describes his leadership style as strategic and goal-oriented.

"I really have a deep respect for the inquiry process – listening, questioning and seeking the opinions of others," he said. "I think a president should help set goals and lead an institution down the desired path, but trust in the talents of people to get there. I have never been disappointed in trusting people too much. From what I have gathered, the talent on this campus is exceptional. ... A president should be the catalyst for everyone's dreams and remove barriers so people can be creative and think outside the box."

Karl Weber, vice chair of the NMU board, said he and fellow trustee Sam Benedict had an opportunity to visit VCSU and meet with Wong last week.

"I am optimistic that he could be one of Northern's strongest presidents ever," Weber said. "I have that much confidence in him and his ability to lead this university."

Benedict added, "We had a marvelous visit there and received very good feedback on Dr. Wong from staff, faculty, alumni and community members."

In addition to casting a unanimous roll-call vote in favor of Wong's appointment, a number of trustees praised the input received from students, employees and community members after campus visits by four finalists.

"Many people came to the Web site with very thoughtful comments on interactions they had with the candidates or on research they had done," said Mary Campbell, chair of the board.

On a similar note, trustee Doug Roberts said, "I want to commend those who took the time and effort to respond to the survey. Their input was definitely a factor in my decision, which is why I overwhelmingly support Dr. Wong's appointment."

Wong will assume the post previously occupied by Judi Bailey, who left NMU last spring to become president of Western Michigan University. Mike Roy has been serving as interim. He will return to his former position as vice president for finance and administration. Details of Wong’s contract with NMU remain to be finalized.

Leslie E. "Les" Wong

Career at a Glance
--Valley City State University in North Dakota. Vice president for academic affairs, 1999-present
--University of Southern Colorado, Pueblo. Provost and academic vice president, 1996-99; interim president, Jan. 1 to June 30, 1997
--The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. Academic dean, 1990-96; faculty member, 1988-1996
--Pierce College in Tacoma, Wash. Psychology instructor, 1974-1988; women's varsity tennis coach, 1975-1981

--Ph.D. Educational Psychology, Washington State University, 1986
--M.S. Experimental Psychology, Eastern Washington University, 1974
--B.A. Psychology, Gonzaga University (Spokane, Wash.), 1972

Personal Information
--Married to Phyllis Wong, director of online learning at Valley City State University and online English/history instructor for Baker Online (Baker College in Flint, Mich.)
--Children: Isaac, 29, a mathematician; Nathan, 25, a professional flutist; and Brian, 22, 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Army
--Interests: outdoor recreation (running, fly fishing, alpine backpacking, canoeing, baseball); reading ethnic and civil war literature; and collecting antique measuring instruments

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