ST. PAUL, Minn. – Earl H. Potter III, the president of Minnesota's St. Cloud State University, died in a highway crash. He was 69.
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor Steven Rosenstone said Tuesday that Potter died Monday evening in a crash as he drove to the Twin Cities for a foundation board meeting. University spokesman Loren Boone confirmed Potter's death.
The Minnesota State Patrol said Potter was driving east on Interstate 694 in Brooklyn Center about 5:30 p.m. when his SUV left the road and hit a guard rail. The patrol says Potter overcorrected, causing the vehicle to flip several times and strike some cable barriers.
"Earl's passing is a huge loss to St. Cloud State University," Rosenstone said at a campus news conference. "It's a loss to the state of Minnesota. And it's a loss to higher education. He was a highly respected leader, both here in Minnesota and across the nation, as well as around the world."
After spending more than two decades in higher education administration across the country, Potter took the reins at the school in 2007. He was set to serve through at least June 2019 after accepting a three-year extension this winter.
Wanda Overland, the school's vice president of student life and development, credited Potter for spearheading St. Cloud's efforts to boost international student recruitment and for weaving the university into the central Minnesota city's community by serving on various company boards and improving neighborhood outreach.
Overland had already been at the school for a year when Potter arrived on campus. She said he quickly won her over and attributed her long stay in St. Cloud to Potter's leadership and friendship.
"He probably worked harder than all of us," she said. "He was a phenomenal human being and a wonderful president."
Gov. Mark Dayton saw Potter's commitment to diversifying St. Cloud's campus firsthand, as the pair traveled together on several trade missions abroad.
"He loved St. Cloud State University, and he loved the students, faculty, and staff with whom he worked," Dayton said in a statement. "I extend my deepest condolences to all of them and to his family for their terrible loss."
Rosenstone named Provost Ashish Vaidya to serve as acting president and said he will ask the MnSCU system's Board of Trustees next week to appoint Vaidya as interim president.
Overland said campus leaders are still planning some kind of campus celebration of Potter's life and tenure.