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A visionary Fuller leads a premier institution

Dressed in a well-tailored suit, crisp white shirt and neat tie, David Fuller welcomes visitors with a warm smile and a handshake. Guiding the way into his office, he offers the choice of seating at a dark wood conference table, at his desk, or in facing wingback chairs. He gravitates to the chairs.

Stately and serene, the office suits the 10th president of Minot State University. He's at ease here, but he's equally comfortable in the lively environment beyond these doors. In fact, he's proud of the university's noisy Student Center, its brassy marching band and vocal Student Government Association because, when he arrived on campus 10 years ago, it was quiet. Too quiet.

Fuller was in his fourth year as vice president for academic affairs at Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb., when he applied for and was chosen as Minot State's 10th president. Students, faculty, staff and alumni who "bleed red and green" warmly greeted Fuller, but the new president felt that some people underestimated the university's potential. He launched a self-study involving people from every corner of the campus and the community. Focus groups met, their thoughts were gathered, and the university adopted "Vision 2013" as its strategic plan. The overarching goal: "Minot State University will achieve national distinction as one of the premier public, regional universities in the ‘great' Great Plains."

"It's important to set a bold goal," Fuller said, "and it has to represent the interests of the people, which is why I think we have done well, because it's what the people wanted."

Minot State has invested millions of dollars on improving everything from academics to infrastructure. A number of academic enhancements emerged during Fuller's tenure, such as: new majors in energy economics and finance, athletic training and bioinformatics; the Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning and POWER (TRIO) Center. In athletics, the Beavers moved up to NCAA DII and NSIC, and Herb Parker Field and complex were renovated. Student services were greatly enhanced with the addition of Swain Hall and the Student Wellness Center, as well as renovation of the Beaver Dam student activities center and the Slaaten Learning Center. Also during Fuller's decade as Minot State's president, the university saw a significant increase in the number of out-of-state and international students; salaries increased on average 26.8 percent for faculty and 39 percent for staff; and the Veterans Services Program was established.

Of all Fuller's accomplishments - the buildings built, programs added, equipment upgraded, positions strengthened, salaries raised and enrollment increased - he most wants to be remembered as a strong advocate for learning and for students.

"I had planned to go a few more years," Fuller said, "but I don't feel any ill will. Ten years of service is a good period of time. And in this 10th year, I think we (the university) are over the hump. We are starting to regain enrollment (after the 2011 Mouse River Flood) . We are sound financially. The campus looks beautiful. We just established a new general education curriculum. And we have a powerful relationship with the community."

During their tenure, the Fullers attended every student activity they could fit into their schedules, from basketball games to jazz concerts to theatrical productions. The Beavers' "number one fan," Nancy Fuller can be seen - and heard - at many sporting events. She knows most student-athletes by name. She takes great pleasure in conversing with students and uses every opportunity to applaud their efforts in every aspect of campus life. It's that involvement with students and the vibrancy of campus life that the Fullers will miss most.

"Nancy and I love this place," he said. "I am proud of being here. If I stayed another 10 years, there would be interesting challenges and things to continue to build on, but 10 years is a long time, and it's time to leave."

What the future holds is still uncertain for the Fullers. They'll spend the warmer months at their cabin on Lake of the Woods in Minnesota. Fuller intends to use his new free time writing, reading poetry and shooting photographs with "a pretty good camera."

He also plans to "contribute to the welfare of the common good" by engaging in causes important to him - the environment, homelessness and animal welfare. Otherwise, the next chapter of Fuller's life is yet to be written, but it seems to him, as it seemed to Henry David Thoreau when he departed Walden Pond, "that I have ‘several more lives to live.' And that is exciting."

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