The interim and incoming presidents of the University of Montana greeted the Faculty Senate on Thursday, but both had departed to other meetings by the time senators pushed back on proposed cuts to the library and sabbaticals.
At the meeting, President Sheila Stearns said she’s at the helm of UM for the final stretch this semester, and much budget work remains to be done. Revenue shortfalls at the state means UM’s ongoing budget trouble may worsen.
“We are waiting, as you are, to learn the dimension of the challenge ahead of us for both (2018), but especially (2019),” Stearns said.
She also introduced Seth Bodnar and his wife, pediatrician and Missoula native Chelsea Elander. General Electric executive Bodnar is set to become UM’s next president in January 2018 pending approval by the Montana Board of Regents.
The faculty gave the couple a round of applause, and Elander was emotional in brief remarks to the group. She said she was honored at the chance to be part of the campus, sitting in a room in which she believes her parents had sat.
“Thank you for that opportunity, and we will work very, very hard for all of you and for the community,” Elander said.
Bodnar shared a conversation he’d had with one of their children to illustrate the way he viewed the role of the president. Elander has four parents in Montana, and one, John Sommers-Flanagan, is a faculty member at UM.
Bodnar said Margaret, 7, contemplated her dad’s new job. First, he said, she cried because the family had to move, but then she wondered aloud about Bodnar’s new relationship to her grandpa, “Grandpa Pancake” Sommers-Flanagan.
“So, you’re Pancake’s boss.”
“No, Margaret. That’s not how it works.”
Bodnar told faculty it might sound phony, but he told her how he viewed it: “Actually, my job is to make sure that Grandpa Pancake can be very successful in his job (and that) he…