Performing Arts Hall of Fame Inductees
The Mayville State University Performing Arts Hall of Fame was established in 2013 to honor and preserve the memory of those musicians, bands, choirs, faculty, and others who have contributed in a very outstanding and positive way to the promotion of Mayville State University performing arts programs.
Francis E. Colby
Former Mayville State Faculty Member
Francis E. Colby was associate professor of music at Mayville State from 1963 until 1981. During his tenure, he directed the concert band, the jazz ensemble, and the brass quintet. Mr. Colby taught classes in music education and private instrument lessons. He worked in recruitment of music students, and to that end, directed music concerts by Mayville State’s concert band and jazz ensemble in public schools. Fran was a judge for numerous music festivals and contests. The traditional homecoming concert was instituted while Colby was at Mayville State, and the brass quintet performed for graduation ceremonies, while his jazz ensembles performed during the homecoming queen coronation. These performances greatly enhanced student life at Mayville State. Francis Colby earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Minnesota State University - Moorhead, a Master of Arts degree from the University of Washington; and did doctoral studies at the University of North Dakota.
A saxophone player, Dennis Connelly has been an active musician, clinician, and adjudicator in the upper Midwest for more than 40 years. He has appeared at the International Montreux Jazz Festival, as well as with Lenny Picket, Bones Malone, Jeff Jarvis, Dennis Diblasio, Frank Mantooth, Lisa Henry, and numerous others. Denny has worked and soloed as a musician in many settings, including concert, jazz, rock, society bands, commercial jingle sessions, albums, and orchestras. He spent 13 years on the jazz faculty at the International Peace Gardens. A 1972 Mayville State graduate with a degree in music, Connelly was a member of the concert band, jazz band, concert choir, and swing choir. He taught music in Minnesota and North Dakota for nine years. He is retired from the North Dakota Army National Guard, where he spent seven years as a band commander and 34 years as an Army helicopter pilot, 19 of those years as a maintenance test pilot. After retiring from the military, Connelly flew two years as an EMS helicopter pilot in Bismarck, N.D.
The Clark and Joann Ewen Family
The Clark and Joann Ewen Family has been steadfast in their support for the arts at Mayville State University and in the entire Mayville-Portland community. The family provided the main thrust in establishing the Community School of the Arts some years after the music program at Mayville State closed in the early 1990s. This paved the way for the re-establishment of music at Mayville State University. The Ewens are leaders in the notion of providing a scholarship for every student who participates in band and choir at Mayville State, thus helping to build interest and involvement and the currently thriving music program. Jo Ewen and her family members have been instrumental in the establishment of the Northern Lights Art Gallery, which is housed on the campus of Mayville State University, providing arts-related opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and the entire community. In addition, the family has provided significant support for various areas of the university, including the Byrnes-Quanbeck Library and the MSU Theater Department.
Gene Gaffney taught band and choir at Neche, N.D. and at Lakota, N.D. before spending 30 years as high school band director at Detroit Lakes, Minn. In 1967, his Lakota band was the North Dakota Governor’s Band. His Detroit Lakes bands were selected to perform at the Minnesota State Convention on two occasions, and one of his jazz bands performed at the International Kiwanis Convention. He directed a band that took first place in a competition in which 51 bands competed in St. Louis, Mo. Gaffney was named the Minnesota Band Educator of the Year in 1991. He has been a guest honors band clinician in four states, and is a member of “Phi Beta Mu,” an honorary high school and collegiate fraternity. Gene directed the Detroit Lakes Community Chorus for 15 years, and is currently director of the Lakes Area Community Concert Band, a position he’s held since 2006. Gaffney was a member of Mayville State’s band for three years, from 1954 to 1957, and the choir for four years, from 1953 to 1957. He was a soloist with the choir on several occasions. Gene Gaffney graduated in 1957 with a degree in vocal and instrumental music, and a minor in business.
Vernon Gerig, Jr.
Representative of the Music Industry
Vernon R. Gerig, Jr. was a music teacher at public schools in Leeds, N.D. and Bottineau, N.D. after he earned his Bachelor of Science in Education degree in music from Mayville State in 1958. His Bottineau High School band was chosen as the North Dakota Governor’s Band for two years of Gerig’s five-year tenure there. He was very active in the International Music Camp Corporation, and in 2007, his family was presented with the Order of the Crossed Flags in recognition of his outstanding contributions made to the cultural development of youth. From 1969 to 1977 he was a music education representative for Nels Vogel, Inc. He later was in church organ sales and was an organ consultant. After serving as band director at Moorhead (Minn.) Senior High School from 1981 to 1983, he was a general manager with Eckroth Music until his retirement in 2003. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment in music came in the form of a letter received from a student, “Each fact you told me opened up more of the world of music. Music will always be a part of my soul. You inspired me to strive for excellence.”
Merwyn A. Green
Former Mayville State Faculty Member
Merwyn A. Green was influential in establishing a highly-reputed music program and culture at Mayville State as he enhanced and expanded the curriculum and instituted and fostered the University and Community Fine Arts Series. He led music study/performance trips to Europe, orchestrated numerous tours with college performing groups, and cooperated with the theatre department to produce memorable musicals. His presentation of “The Messiah” marked the start of many Christmas seasons. Those who knew him best remember a skilled musician, thoughtful mentor, quiet benefactor, inveterate traveler, consummate host, and a man with a superb generosity of spirit. Green earned a B.A. in music in 1936, and the M.A. in 1957, both at the University of Iowa. He was a charter member of the North Dakota Music Educators Association Hall of Fame, a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and a life member of both the Music Educators National Conference and the American Choral Directors Associations. A WW II army veteran, he was a member of the American Legion. He belonged to the Fraternal Order of Eagles as well. Mr. Green served Mayville from 1946 to 1978.
Dr. Christopher Jones
Former Mayville State Faculty Member
Dr. Christopher Jones was associate professor of speech and drama and director of the drama department at Mayville State from 1966 to 1985. He appeared in a number of movies and had an exciting career in acting before coming to Mayville State to teach. Dr. Jones called his decision to pursue a career in teaching “the wisest decision he ever made,” because he felt that working with young people was a far greater accomplishment than acting. “In theatre, too often the moment of creation is in the present tense soon over and you only have memories left, but teaching is a means of achieving a kind of symbolic immortality. If I can pass on to young people my own discipline, ideas, and dedication, they will in turn qualify and evaluate my teaching, and hopefully, will pass some of them on to others and I will live forever.” Jones had a gift for combining his skill and imagination to create something from nothing in the area of costuming. He once remarked, “If one is lucky enough to fill his life with the kind of work he loves, then life itself becomes a work of art.”
Olaf J. Ringerud
After graduating from Mayville State with a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1952, Olaf Ringerud taught vocal and instrumental music at schools in Portland, N.D.; Clifford, N.D.; Anamoose, N.D.; and Westhope, N.D. He taught band and choir at Carrington, N.D. from 1959 to 2004. In that role, he produced and directed several Broadway musicals. His bands and choirs gave several performances at his alma mater, and he led three choir tours to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Ringerud was an adjudicator in district music contests in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. He also judged at the North Dakota state music contest several times. He was a guest conductor for bands and choirs in Barnes and Stutsman County (N.D.) music festivals. Olaf was president of the North Dakota Music Educators Association in 1965-66, and was selected to the Music Educator Hall of Fame by the group in 1987. After retiring from teaching, Olaf became a registered piano technician. He’s a member of the Piano Technicians Guild, and he tuned pianos for the International Music Camp for eight years. Ringerud played trumpet in the 8th U.S. Army Band in 1953-54, while serving in the U.S. Army in Seoul, Korea.