President’s Column for Traill County Tribune

March 24, 2018

Come and celebrate with us!

My time as a Mayville State University employee is nearing an end. Because so much has happened in the past 42 years, reflecting on specific memories is difficult. Most of my memories center on people rather than accomplishments or situations. I am most grateful that Debbie and I found a home in a community that accepted us and fully supported the institution where I would eventually spend so much time working. Over the years, the number of students, employees, community members, and alumni who we have grown to care for has grown exponentially. It is hard to believe that one person could be so thoroughly blessed.

My first memory of Mayville State came because of a call to the University of North Dakota from Jack Sand, chairman of the Business Division at the time. I was a graduate teaching assistant at UND and Mayville State needed an instructor. There were only a few weeks before the fall session would begin, so the need was urgent. 

I took Debbie for a drive to Mayville to look over the town and see what she thought. I was from Northwood, N.D., so Mayville looked like a good move to me. Debbie was from Grand Forks, and I am not sure she shared the same initial enthusiasm. One reason was because of our first evening in Mayville.  Our first home was in the faculty apartments on campus and I remember coming to Mayville in the evening to do some painting to get the apartment ready for us to move in. We finished our work after 6 p.m. and realized we were too low on gas to get back to Grand Forks. There were no gas stations open or convenience stores available at that time of day in 1976. We made it to Hillsboro on empty and were able to fill on gas, then made it back to Grand Forks.

I think that experience was a culture shock for us, but it soon became obvious that living in a small town meant getting to know a large percentage of the town’s population. That involvement in many activities would be necessary. Both Debbie and I seemed to thrive in this environment, so my initial promise of working here for a year or two ultimately became 42 years. We are both thankful for the privilege to live and work in a community where people care for each other and support one another through both good and challenging times. 

One of the advantages of working at one institution for a long time and having multiple positions along the way is being able to visit with many alumni and friends about “the old days.” One of the more common topics people like to bring up to me is that of computers. When I started my employment in 1976, computers were not a factor in everyday life. In 1982, IBM introduced the world to its PC and the world has not been the same since. I soon learned that dealing with change was one of the biggest challenges professional people face. Trying to secure funding for computers, and simply gaining acceptance for them on campus was not an easy task.

Persistence always pays off, and it wasn’t long before we had computer labs and new classes. I remember developing a general education course called “Computers in Society.” This wasn’t an easy pill for the more traditional professors to swallow, but we were soon offering many sessions each semester. I continually run into people who love to visit about punch cards, floppy disks, and their initial feelings of computer fright. My, how times have changed!

Computers soon took over my working life and I left teaching to become the campus’s first Chief Information Officer (CIO). Mayville State had entered the computer era and even had an administrative position dedicated to technology.

From there I moved to new administrative positions, where I felt much more comfortable than I was when teaching. In 2006, the campus hit a low point in its existence and began what many call the “darker days.”  I found myself in a challenging situation, but I soon realized that my 30 years of prior work on the campus, combined with the appropriate advanced academic degrees, had somehow prepared me for what was to come. I never doubted the ability of the campus to persevere and I felt comfortable in my new role. How can one go wrong with a dedicated, committed, and caring campus and community?

My memories over the past 12 years as president can be summed up with one word: teamwork. The campus community has collaboratively developed aggressive plans over the years and worked hard to implement them. Everyone on campus has played a role and been unselfish in the endeavors. Together, so much has been accomplished, and everyone on campus can share equally in these successes.

More than anything, I will look back on this time as one of cooperation, communication, and mutual effort. It is only when you add this campus effort to the caring and sharing attitude of our community, alumni, and friends that one can understand and appreciate the full measure of this era of Mayville State. I continue to be humbled by everyone’s dedication and support of our campus mission. 

The true basis for everything we do is our students, and I have never had to remind anyone of this because our historical roots as a teaching institution have permanently engrained this in all that we do. This is a great source of pride!

A special event will be held on the evening of Friday, May 4 at the MSU Campus Center Luckasen Room. A retirement celebration has been planned, and Debbie and I invite all who wish to attend to join us. We will socialize from 6 to 6:30 p.m., and then there will be a very short program. Dancing to the “Downtown Horns” will begin at 7 p.m. and wrap up at 11. A cash bar will be available, so please come and relax, visit, and simply enjoy yourselves. It would be my personal honor to see you there and to have you help us celebrate the past as we usher in our new lives apart from Mayville State University. The campus accomplishments of these last years would not have been possible without you, and we would treasure the opportunity to celebrate with you. We worked together. We had success together. Now it is time to say farewell together. Thank you for being a significant part of the memories of Debbie and me. We look forward to creating new and different memories in the future!