The State Board of Higher Education, at a special meeting, voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Jim L. Ozbun as interim president of Dickinson State University. Current DSU President D.C. Coston recently informed North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott that he is stepping down on Aug. 15 due to health concerns ahead of his originally planned retirement date of February. Ozbun will begin serving as interim president Aug. 17. The Board also agreed that the timeframe for the interim service would be negotiated by Hagerott with Ozbun depending on the needs of the university and the successful search for a permanent president.
“I want to thank D.C. Coston for his years of service. What is important at this point is that we take care of him and his family as he faces health issues. I appreciate that the Board could make time for a special meeting for the urgent matter of appointing an interim president,” said Hagerott. “Dr. Ozbun is a respected member of the Dickinson community, and with his extensive background, he will be able to fulfill the duties as we continue our search for a permanent president.”
At the Chancellor’s recommendation, the Board considered three interim candidates: Ozbun; Cynthia Lee A. Pemberton, Ed.D., current DSU provost and vice president of Academic Affairs; and Larry C. Skogen, Ph.D., who would have served both as the president of Bismarck State College and DSU. Hagerott thanked all for their willingness to serve, but said he thought Ozbun would be able to give the university his full attention, which is critical at this time of transition.
Ozbun is a retired academic with a long history of service in higher education. Before purchasing a small cattle ranch in western North Dakota, Ozbun served from 1988 to 1995 as President of North Dakota State University.
Ozbun’s career led him through faculty roles and leadership positions at Cornell University, the University of Minnesota, Kansas State University, Washington State University and NDSU. His work in research and teaching related to physiology and nutrition of crop plants. Ozbun has served on numerous boards and committees throughout his path of service, including most recently the Medora Foundation Board, St. Joseph’s Hospital Board in Dickinson, the Partners for Grassland Stewardship and as Chair of the North Dakota Racing Commission.
He has authored dozens of scientific journal articles and advised numerous graduate students, including 10 Ph.D. dissertations. His Ph.D. is in Soils and Plant Physiology.
The search for the next DSU president began immediately after Coston’s February announcement, and a presidential search committee was formed in April. DSU’s fall semester begins Aug. 24.