MSU President's Column for Traill County Tribune

June 3, 2017 

Mayville State will recognize distinguished alumni and friends at June 23 dinner


We’re very excited about plans that are being made for Alumni Day, Friday, June 23. With all the good things happening at Mayville State, there is much to celebrate. We hope you’ll join us in the festivities, which are being held in conjunction with Mayville-Portland’s annual Summerfest on June 22, 23, 24, and 25.

A highlight of Mayville State’s plans for Alumni Day will be the annual Alumni Association Awards Dinner. It will be held Friday, June 23, beginning at 6 p.m. in the MSU Campus Center Luckasen Room. It will be a pleasure to recognize this year’s Alumni Association honorees. They are Distinguished Alumni Award recipients Richard Balstad and Don Cavalier. Mike Bakken will receive the Distinguished Service Award, and Jeff Braaten will be recognized posthumously as a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award.

Retired Col. Richard Balstad, U.S. Air Force, Wichita Falls, Texas, graduated from Mayville State in 1963. He immediately entered the Air Force and was commissioned a second lieutenant. After graduating from officer training school, he began work to qualify for pilot training and received his silver wings in 1965. He first went to Elgin Air Force Base in Florida, and then was assigned to DaNang Air Force Base in the Republic of Vietnam. While serving in Vietnam, he received the USAF Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry. Balstad rose to the rank of Colonel and served as the commander of the USAF’s most advanced fighter/bomber squadron, the F-111 “ARDVARKS” 494 TFS, stationed in Lakenheath, England. His mission there was to protect our NATO allies in Europe. Col. Balstad has brought honor to his career and honor to his alma mater.

Donald Cavalier, Crookston, Minn., earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and physical education from Mayville State in 1965. He began his career in education as a public school teacher and coach. From 1967 to 1974, he taught, coached, and served as a counselor at schools in Crookston. He was director of Education at the Northwest Regional Correction Center in Crookston from 1974 to 1976, when he joined the staff at the University of Minnesota Crookston, where he served in several roles and was Director of Career Development at the time of his retirement in 2016. Upon his retirement, UMC honored Cavalier for his outstanding service, inspirational leadership, and commitment to the school, as well as for his prestigious leadership on the all-University of Minnesota Civil Service Committee. Cavalier has made an effort to make the world a better place and has taken an active role in working with youth, the underemployed, and disadvantaged people.

Mike Bakken, Mayville, N.D., was a member of the music faculty and directed the music program at Mayville State University from 2003 to 2016. He was instrumental in revitalizing the music program during his tenure. He worked to assure that each student who participates in band or choir receives a scholarship. He was also in charge of local arrangements for the MSU and Community Fine Arts Series, a program that brings several world-class musicians to the campus each year. Bakken helped to restore a minor in music at Mayville State, and was an initial member of the executive committee of the Performing Arts Hall of Fame at Mayville State, recognizing Mayville State alumni and friends who have made an impact in the performing arts. Bakken retired in May of 2016.

Jeff Braaten was a true supporter of Comet Athletics. His involvement in MSU athletic activities included coaching at the Red River Valley Basketball Camp hosted by MSU, officiating home junior varsity basketball games, finding officials for home basketball games, assisting with the Comet Athletic Club 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, managing the concession stands, mentoring student athletes, managing the score book for countless games, and much more. He had a passion for the Comets athletic teams and the student athletes he befriended and mentored throughout their college careers. Jeff passed away in February of 2014. He left his mark on MSU Athletics and the student athletes he knew left a big mark on his heart.

I hope you’ll plan to join us in honoring our 2017 recipients of the Distinguished Service and Distinguished Alumni Awards on Friday, June 23. Tickets for the Alumni Association Awards Dinner may be purchased online at or by contacting the MSU Foundation at 701-788-4864 or Please RSVP as soon as possible.