Minutes of the Special Formal Session


Friday, September 24, 2021


A special formal session of the Board of Trustees of Northern Michigan University was held on Friday, September 24, 2021, via Zoom Video Conference.  The meeting was convened at 3:01 p.m. by Chair Tami M. Seavoy.


Trustees present included:

Ms. Tami M. Seavoy, Chair

Ms. Donna L. Murray-Brown

Ms. Lisa I. Fittante

Mr. Gregory J. Seppanen

Ms. Alexis M. Hart

Mr. Stephen E. Young, Vice Chair

Mr. Robert E. Mahaney

Dr. Fritz J Erickson, ex officio

Mr. Jason T. Morgan



Senior Staff and Counsel present included:

Mr. Brad Canale, Chief Executive Officer – NMU Foundation

Mr. R. Gavin Leach, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees

Dr. Kerri Schuiling, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Ms. Deanna Hemmila, Executive Director – Board/Government Relations

Ms. Cathy A. Andrew, Secretary of the Board of Trustees

Mr. Kurt McCamman, Legal Counsel


The meeting was live-streamed on YouTube at



Secretary Andrew took roll call and noted that a quorum was met with all Trustees present.



Chair Seavoy stated this special meeting was called for the sole purpose of considering action on the President’s contract term and made the following statement:


“President Erickson serves under a contract that was first commenced July 1, 2014 and has been amended a number of times, most recently July 1, 2018.  The contract term under that contract extends until June 30, 2023.  We have been asked to consider action on the President’s contract term.”  Chair Seavoy asked if there was a motion to bring forward.


Vice Chair Young made the following motion:


It was moved by Trustee Young and seconded by Trustee Hart to terminate the President’s employment agreement under Article 7, Termination Not for Cause, effective immediately, and to authorize the Board Chair to sign all documents and take all steps necessary to carry out the Board’s directives.


After the motion was made and duly seconded, Vice Chair Young made the following statement:


“This has been a difficult few weeks for me personally and as a member of this Board, I do not take my duties as a board member lightly.  I’m always guided in my decision-making by the principle of what is in the best interest of this university.  That’s the bottom line for me, as I know it is for all of my fellow trustees on this board, as well.


President Erickson has done some outstanding work during his time here at NMU.  For instance, he and his team have helped us navigate the choppy and uncertain waters that COVID has presented to all of us, and his team has implemented several new programs that have been successful, such as medicinal plant chemistry, FROST, and several others to name a few.  On the financial side, we have maintained a level of stability that other universities our size have not been able to maintain, either before or during the difficult time of COVID.  These are some of the positives, and there are others, but I do think they deserve being mentioned here today.


Yet in spite of this, there are some areas where I think we need to do more.  As a colleague of mine used to say, ‘You don’t have to be sick to get better.’  Here are some of the areas where I think that in the best interest of the university we need more.  I believe we need more leadership and forward thinking in the area of strategic planning, more thought and action as to what we want this university to look like, not tomorrow or the next 48 hours, but in the next six years, 10 years, and out into the future, and not only that, but how do we get there?  I believe we need more critical thinking and idea generation from the president’s office.  In the area of enrollment, we need more; we need bold action.  Declining enrollment is never something we should accept.  Rather, it’s something we should wake up every day thinking about, “How can we reverse that trend and grow?’  I believe we need improved communication from a microlevel with the Board; exactly what leadership is doing to make this a better university today, tomorrow. and into the future.  Finally, I believe we need more leadership on fundraising and capital improvements that are critical to the university’s future.


The point I’m making with this motion is there’s been good things that have happened, but we can and must do more, and all of this leads back to what I said earlier – what is in the best interest of this university.  Dr. Erickson has given 7-1/2 years to this university and NMU – for that we thank him. However, there is much more, as I’ve pointed out, that needs to be done.  In addition, we have challenges on the horizon that require focus and enthusiastically committed leadership.  A couple of those challenges are, as you aware, we have a provost search and we have a critical capital campaign about to commence.


Concluding, the President serves at the discretion of this Board, and I believe for the reasons stated, it’s time for a change in direction and leadership.  I ask my fellow Trustees to support my motion so we can get back on track and meet the challenges of the present, the future, and to move this university forward.  Thank you, Madam Chair.”


Being no further discussion, Chair Seavoy called the question:


On a roll-call vote, the Board voted as follows:


                                    Aye                                         Nay


                              Lisa I. Fittante

                              Alexis M. Hart

                              Robert E. Mahaney

                              Jason T. Morgan

                              Donna L. Murray-Brown

                              Tami M. Seavoy

                              Gregory J. Seppanen

                              Stephen E. Young


Secretary Andrew announced the vote passed 8 – 0.


Following the vote, Chair Seavoy thanked President Erickson for his service. 


Chair Seavoy asked, until such time as another special meeting can be scheduled to appoint an interim president, that the Vice President for Finance and Administration and the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs work together in providing the university with executive leadership and to assist the president in an orderly departure from his office.  Chair Seavoy said she anticipates either calling another special meeting next week or, perhaps, since the Board has regularly scheduled meetings next week the interim presidency may be addressed at that time.  She noted that as this is a special meeting, this is the only topic for discussion and called for a motion to adjourn the meeting.


The following action was taken:


It was moved by Trustee Mahaney, seconded by Trustee Morgan, and supported unanimously to adjourn the meeting.


Chair Seavoy adjourned the meeting at 3:09 p.m.




Respectfully submitted,



/signed/Cathy A. Andrew

Secretary of the Board of Trustees