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President MacDonald to serve second term at Northwood University

February 13, 2024

Northwood University is pleased to announce President Kent MacDonald has agreed to serve a new term as president.

“During his first term, President MacDonald guided Northwood through some of its greatest challenges to date, and he ushered in a new era of growth at America’s Free Enterprise University,” stated Dr. Jennifer Panning, who chairs the Northwood University Board of Trustees.

Since assuming the role in the summer of 2019, MacDonald has made a profound impact on Northwood University’s culture, financial strength, and strategic positioning in the highly competitive higher education landscape. Over the past five years, the university has achieved academic excellence, evidenced by its renewed accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission. Furthermore, Northwood has strengthened its financial position through increased enrollment across all areas of operation. The university remains debt-free and has experienced remarkable growth in its endowment and the availability of scholarships for students.

Additionally, Northwood has invested in new capital infrastructure to enhance the living and learning facilities for students, faculty, and staff. MacDonald has also reinforced Northwood’s commitment to serving the automotive and mobility sector. The university’s exceptional workplace climate has been recognized, recently earning Northwood the distinction of being one of America’s best universities to work for.

The Northwood University Board of Trustees voted Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, to approve a six-year contract with MacDonald.

Panning expressed the board’s excitement and enthusiasm for MacDonald’s continued leadership by emphasizing Northwood’s renewed focus on academic quality and relevance to industry needs; effective management practices that have led to a strong financial position; and an unwavering commitment to Northwood’s founding values of individual freedom and personal responsibility, free enterprise, and earned success.

“I am confident Dr. MacDonald will build on the momentum of his first term to continue to grow enrollment and make Northwood the destination for students across the globe to learn about The Northwood Idea and share our values, which are deeply rooted in the founding principles of America. These values resonate with parents and employers alike,” Panning added. “These are the future free enterprise leaders who will drive global social and economic progress! Our students — as well as our staff, faculty and trustees — hold Kent and his wife, Mary-Ellen, in the highest regard, and we are all excited about the next six years together!”

MacDonald and his wife, Dr. Mary-Ellen MacPhee, have made a lasting impression on the greater Midland community, and their efforts to bridge the gap between Northwood and the Great Lakes Bay Region have been well-received and appreciated.

“Both Kent and Mary-Ellen are very warm, charming people who are both very involved locally,” stated Midland Mayor Maureen Donker, who praised MacDonald’s commitment to Midland, citing his involvement in the Community Excellence Group and his initiatives to introduce new students and parents to the city. “Under his leadership, Northwood has opened its campus and programs to the entire community, and they are an amazing community partner.”

William S. Stavropoulos, a respected leader who is former CEO and Chairman of The Dow Chemical Company (Dow), holds MacDonald in high esteem. He soundly endorsed the Northwood Board of Trustees’ move to keep MacDonald in the president’s role for the remainder of this decade.

“In 2019, Kent MacDonald was the leader needed to continue to build Northwood and despite great adversity, that is exactly what he has accomplished during his first term,” Stavropoulos noted. “Northwood is a key component to our community. Linda and I could not be more pleased to learn that Dr. MacDonald will continue to lead this fine university.”

MacDonald and MacPhee have fostered strong relationships with many long-time Northwood patrons, including David and Carol Williams, a couple that is deeply connected to Midland and Northwood.

“As supporters of Northwood University for many years now, we are very pleased that Dr. Kent MacDonald has decided to stay at the university for another six years,” the couple stated. “When you reflect on the first five years and how he led the university through COVID and a significant flood event, and yet increased enrollment when most other universities in the U.S. are managing with a decline, we look forward to what the future will bring for Northwood under his continued leadership.”

Looking ahead, MacDonald has outlined two primary goals for his second term: increasing the total value of student scholarships to ensure that anyone who shares Northwood’s values can attend America’s Free Enterprise University regardless of their financial position; and expanding the number of endowed professorships to ensure a lasting legacy of academic excellence and relevance.

Regarding new scholarships, MacDonald leads by example: He and MacPhee have created the Kelly Ann Meeks Scholarship to honor MacDonald’s entrepreneurial sister who passed away in 2019.

“Kent and Mary-Ellen are renowned for their kindness and generosity,” stated Murray Kyte, vice president of advancement for Northwood University. “The creation of this scholarship is just one way they make an impact in the lives of others.”

MacDonald noted he and Dr. MacPhee look forward to continuing to represent Northwood. “We are grateful for the opportunity to serve the faculty, staff and students of this special university,” MacDonald added.

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