H. Erik Shaar (1992-2004)
Raised in Pennsylvania, Erik Shaar majored in music at West Chester State College. During a stint in the U. S. Air Force, he played cello in its symphony orchestra. He earned a doctorate from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D. C., in 1964.
He began his academic career at Northern Michigan University, where he taught music. He next served as dean of fine arts and humanities at Chicago State University. In 1975, he transferred to Shippensburg State University to become vice president of academic affairs. He then became president of Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., in 1986.
When Shaar became president of Minot State University in 1992, he proposed a three-point agenda. He wanted to modernize campus buildings, forge partnerships beyond the city of Minot and increase the institution's endowment.
He said he wanted Minot State "to become more of a university than the present university we are."
To achieve the first goal, he directed the renovation of several campus buildings, including the Dome, Moore Hall, Hartnett Hall, Old Main and Student Union.
Memorial Library was vacant, so college officials looked to Washington, D.C., for funding. The U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to fund the Institute for Agricultural and Rural Human Resource Development, a project that brought the university's human services departments together under one roof. The remodeled, 90,000-square-foot building, renamed Memorial Hall, was completed in 1996.
Next, Shaar extended campus boundaries by launching an online delivery program, the first in the state. He also forged a partnership with the college at Bottineau. Formerly, Bottineau had an affiliation with North Dakota State University.
Finally, the Old Main Society was established in 1993 to recognize cumulative contributions to the university. In 1995, the MSU Development Foundation received a $1 million contribution from the General Electric Co. on behalf of David C. Jones and his wife, Lois. Both had attended Minot State in the 1940s. Jones is a retired U. S. Air Force general and former chairman of the U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. By the end of his tenure in 1992, Shaar had increased the school's endowment to $11 million, a 700 percent increase from the start of his presidency.
Shaar was an avid supporter of the arts while at MSU. An accomplished cellist, he performed with the Minot Symphony Orchestra and, on occasion, wielded the conductor's baton. His wife, Jane, was a practicing photographer and artist, working in oils and watercolors.
Throughout his time at Minot State, Shaar marveled at the cordial relationship between campus and community.
"I don't think there's one anywhere in the country as good," he said.