Montana University System leaders announced Tuesday that Seth Bodnar will be the next president of the University of Montana, hailing the GE executive as “the type of transformational leader UM needs now and well into the future.”
Bodnar will assume the UM presidency on Jan. 1, 2018.
Fran Albrecht, chair of the Montana University System Board of Regents, said board members reached consensus in confidently supporting Bodnar.
She said Bodnar’s vision for UM and his proven leadership skills are the right fit for a university that has begun the process of refining its program relevancy and is repositioning for institutional growth and strength.
“Seth has a remarkable record of excellence in his academic achievements, public service and visionary leadership, and is someone who uniquely understands the critical importance of a liberal arts education across disciplines,” Albrecht said. “As the so-called ‘non-traditional’ candidate, Seth inspired and generated confidence across the community, alumni, students and the University community in his ability to champion and re-envision a University that addresses the challenges facing students and higher education today.”
Bodnar and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian both indicated Bodnar’s view of education’s role in transforming individual lives and strengthening communities contributed strongly to the presidential job offer and acceptance.
“Seth is the leader who is best suited to make this great University even stronger for the long term,” Christian said. “His experience, skills and personal effectiveness are tremendous attributes to propel UM forward in its continuing tradition of excellence and advancing its historic mission.”
Bodnar said he is honored to accept the UM presidency.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a tremendous team across campus and throughout the community who are passionately committed to the University and its success,” he said.
Bodnar, a Rhodes and Truman scholar, earned two master’s degrees at Oxford University. He graduated first in his class at West Point and later taught classes as a faculty member at the military academy.
He completed a distinguished military career, serving in the 101st Airborne Division and the U.S. Army’s First Special Forces Group. As a member of the Army’s elite Green Berets, he commanded a Special Forces detachment on multiple deployments around the world and later served as a special assistant to the commanding general in Iraq. He was promoted early to the rank of major.
Bodnar is a senior executive at General Electric Co., where he is responsible for long-term strategy and business transformation at GE Transportation, a global company with over 10,000 employees and approximately $5 billion in revenue. Previously, he was president of GE Transportation’s Digital Solutions business and was GE Transportation’s first-ever chief digital officer.
“Seth has been a transformative leader at GE,” said Jamie Miller, the CEO of GE Transportation. “His passion for continuous learning and the development of people, his distinguished record of service and his ability to foster a collaborative and innovative culture are remarkable. We are excited for Seth and his family and for the University of Montana.”
He will be UM’s 18th president. Compensation terms are being finalized and will be made public when the Board of Regents takes up the hiring recommendation at the November board meeting.
The presidential recruitment began last December when the Board of Regents held listening sessions in Missoula to ask members of the public and the campus community what qualities and characteristics they would like to see in the next president.
A search advisory committee of more than 20 UM students, faculty members, staff members, community representatives and education leaders developed the presidential job advertisement based on the community feedback.
“UM is poised to identify, prioritize and sustain an excellent array of high-quality educational program offerings that are of tremendous value to the people of Montana, surrounding region, nation and world,” the advertised message said to potential candidates. “The president will lead UM in vital aspects of planning, development and implementation of successful educational and outreach service to students and the people of Montana. He or she will be a principal articulator of a compelling vision of public higher education for the state of Montana.”
Bodnar said he was attracted to UM by its numerous world-class programs and its excellence in research, as well as the institution’s ability to provide a strong, multidisciplinary education for its students.
“As a flagship research and liberal arts institution, the University of Montana is extremely well-positioned to provide exactly the type of integrative education model that students need to be successful, educated and engaged citizens throughout their lifetimes,” he said. “I am incredibly excited to work with the faculty and the entire campus community in reinvigorating and reasserting this model.”
In addition to the professional challenge and opportunity, Bodnar has a personal interest in UM and the Missoula area. His love for Montana bloomed while studying at Oxford, where he met fellow Rhodes Scholar and future wife, Chelsea Elander, a fifth-generation Montanan and native of Missoula. Chelsea is a pediatrician and a graduate of Hellgate High School, Montana State University-Bozeman, Oxford and Harvard Medical School. Chelsea and Seth have three children.
The couple will visit Missoula on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 12-13, and into the Homecoming weekend. He enthusiastically looks forward to this early opportunity meet more UM community members and engage with students, faculty, staff, professionals, administrators and other stakeholders and supporters of the University.