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Departure of President Wong throws a wrench into the NMU AD search

May 10, 2012 - Matt Wellens

President Les Wong is departing Northern Michigan University after eight years to become the president at San Francisco State University, leaving the hiring of a new Wildcat athletic director in limbo.

David Haynes, an associate professor of political science and public administration at NMU, was appointed president at the same time as the announcement for a minimum of two years.

MJ: Wong leaves NMU president post as successor named



University of Alaska Fairbanks Director of Athletics Forrest Karr, University of North Dakota Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Sean Johnson and David Diles, the director of athletics and chair of the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland were brought to campus as finalists for the athletic director position in April.

Wong made a recommendation for the athletic director position to the NMU Board of Trustees during a closed session on Friday of last week. Since then, no offer has been extended to either of the three finalists.

As of midweek, Johnson and Karr confirmed when reached by The Mining Journal they have not been in contact with NMU since visiting. Diles has been unavailable for comment this week.

Wong also made a recommendation to the board on Friday for the open provost and vice president of academic affairs position. It is unknown whether an offer was ever extended for that position either.

Athletically, San Francisco State University is an NCAA Division II institution that competes in the California Collegiate Athletic Association in everything but wrestling, which competes in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

The Gators field men’s basketball, baseball, cross country, soccer and wrestling teams, as well as women’s basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, track and field and volleyball teams.

Wong has degrees from Gonzaga, Eastern Washington and Washington State universities.

The next athletic director to take over at NMU was to be the first since Wong became president of the university in July of 2004. Ken Godfrey was in place at the time after being promoted by Judith Bailey in 2003.

Godfrey stepped down from as athletic director in January. He went on medical leave on Oct. 18, 2010 after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. NMU's Associate Athletic Director of Operations, Steve Reed, has served as the interim athletic director since that time.

Below is the text of an email sent from the NMU Alumni Association, signed by Wong.

Dear NMU Alumni and Friends,

  It is with mixed feelings that I write this note to you today to inform you that I will be leaving Northern Michigan University to become president at San Francisco State University.  This is a chance for Phyllis and me to return to our home state and be closer to many of our relatives, but it means leaving a place and a university we truly love. 

  I am extremely honored to take the leadership of one of the gems of the California State System. However, my years in service to Northern and to the U.P. will not be forgotten.  Northern’s magic is special, and Phyllis and I feel fortunate to have been a part of its evolution.  It has also been our great pleasure to be able to meet and spend time with so many of you, NMU’s alumni, and your family and friends, on campus and at alumni events across the nation. 

  Many of the details for the transition are being finalized, when Phyllis and I will actually leave Marquette, although we anticipate sometime in July.  More details will be provided later as they become available.  Right now, I just wanted you to know about the decision.

  Again, thank you for your support during my eight years at NMU.   Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat!


Dr. Les Wong



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