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Published May 16, 2012, 09:30 PM

ND Higher Ed Board Member Leaving Early

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Board of Higher Education member Richie Smith has resigned, leaving a pair of vacancies on the panel two months before the board's new top administrator is to begin his job.

By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Board of Higher Education member Richie Smith has resigned, leaving a pair of vacancies on the panel two months before the board's new top administrator is to begin his job.

"I just kind of lost my passion for higher ed, my zeal," Smith told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "There were too many conflicts with work and family and the board, and something had to give. And so it was the board."

The board has eight voting members. Smith's departure follows the April resignation of Claus Lembke, who said his board service had become "totally time-consuming ... It just got to be so big, and too much."

The terms of both Smith and Lembke end in June 2013. Board members may serve two four-year terms. Smith was not eligible for reappointment to the board.

Smith, 60, is an attorney in Wahpeton. He served for two years as president of the board, from July 2008 through June 2010.

In his resignation letter to Dalrymple, Smith said he "no longer can reconcile my time away from my law practice and my partners."

"From a selfish standpoint, I am tired of working nights and weekends to stay current, and I feel it's no longer fair to my partners that I have this commitment," Smith's letter said.

Smith has been suffering from ataxia, a condition that affects his speech and balance, for about a year. He said Wednesday his health was fine and did not influence his decision to quit.

Smith, who was appointed by then-Gov. John Hoeven in 2005, was finishing his second term and was not eligible for reappointment. Lembke quit near the end of his first term.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple will appoint new board members to complete the terms of Lembke and Smith. A screening committee is scheduled to meet June 1 to consider potential successors to Lembke.

Board members recently have grappled with a number of major issues, including a festering dispute over the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname, the dismissal of the president of Dickinson State University for allegedly inflating the school's enrollment and the Aug. 1 retirement of university system chancellor William Goetz.

The board voted in March to hire Hamid Shirvani as Goetz's successor. Shirvani, who is the president of California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock, Calif., begins his job July 1.

North Dakota voters will decide in June whether to keep a state law that requires the University of North Dakota's athletics teams to be known as the Fighting Sioux.

The NCAA considers the nickname offensive and has barred UND from hosting postseason tournaments as long as it is in use.

The board wants to retire the nickname, but its efforts were blocked by the Legislature. The board also attempted to block June's public vote on the issue, but the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the Fighting Sioux question should stay on the ballot.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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