|President Kelley issues statement on President Emeritus Thomas Clifford|
The University of North Dakota is mourning the loss of President Emeritus Thomas J. Clifford, a North Dakota icon regarded as the most dynamic and influential figure in the history of higher education in this state and region. His leadership took UND to the level we know today: an institution known nationally and even internationally, not only for academic excellence but for its enterprise and creativity in meeting challenges and building opportunities for students and citizens.
Tom’s legacy is found all across the campus. The John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences demonstrated how ideas and resources could be leveraged to create an internationally acclaimed program. Under his leadership, UND’s medical school, the only one in the state - was transformed from a two-year program to a full-fledged, four-year M.D. degree-granting school, which met critical health needs in the state while presenting a new model for education and statewide cooperation.
Also under Tom’s administration, UND became one of this region’s most important cultural centers. It gained national and even international stature for research, scholarship, and creative expression. UND students established a reputation for excellence in academics, leadership, and athletics. The campus grew in beauty and functionality.
Tom Clifford was a true leader who embodied the University of North Dakota. The thousands and thousands who met and worked with him appreciated the qualities of a very rare kind of man: enormous personal charm and a memorable physical presence, keen business skills and sharp political instincts, an aptitude for judging talent and recognizing potential, and an extraordinary ability to “make things happen.” He put a priority on people and detested “red tape.” They called it “the Clifford style,” and it helped make UND what it is today.
Tom’s association with this University spanned seven decades, beginning as a student in 1938. He joined the faculty in 1945 and served as a professor, dean, and vice president before taking the helm in 1971. When he retired in 1992, Tom Clifford tied John West (1933-1954) for the longest term as president, 21 years.
Tom Clifford would have achieved great success in nearly any field he could have chosen. The proud standing of UND among the nation’s academic institutions is the result of the love he had for this University and its students, and for the people of North Dakota. This was recognized in 2002 when he was presented the state’s highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award.
Thomas John Clifford will be regarded as one of the true “giants” in the history of the University of North Dakota. -- President Robert Kelley, President.