MSU President's Newspaper Column

July 24, 2021 

Extraordinary people and places distinguish Mayville State, Mayville-Portland

Our summer days are passing quickly by. Before we know it, the seasons will change and we’ll find ourselves in the midst of some special Mayville State fall events, including Farmers Bowl and homecoming. We treasure these opportunities to connect with alumni and friends and enjoy fun-filled and meaningful activities.

Farmers Bowl is a highly anticipated celebration always, and as announced in April, it will be an even bigger deal this year. We could not be more excited about welcoming Small Town Big Deal and show hosts Rodney Miller and Jann Carl for the festivities. Together with the show producers, they will join in all the fun of Farmers Bowl and highlight some of what makes Mayville State and Mayville-Portland special in a future episode.

Being featured on a television program that airs nationwide and has more than a million viewers each week is a distinct honor and we are working hard to ensure that viewers from across the nation and world will have an opportunity to learn about the extraordinary area in which we live and work. We should never take for granted just how special this place we call “home” really is.

Farmers Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, September 18. The day’s activities will include a parade, corn on the cob and hot dog feed, Comets football game vs. Dickinson State, Lindaas Barn Dance, and Sportsmen’s Raffle/Farmers Bowl Silent Auction. Activities continue to be added. See the most up-to-date information at

We’re adding a special edition of the Ceremony of Remembrance at the Military Honor Garden located on the grounds south of the Edson and Margaret Larson Alumni and Leadership Center to the customary Farmers Bowl schedule. It is our tradition to have a Ceremony of Remembrance each year at noon on the Saturday of homecoming weekend. We will continue that tradition, but we’ll have an additional recognition event there this year in honor of this special Farmers Bowl.  

The people of Mayville State and the Mayville-Portland community take great pride in recognizing those who bravely served and continue to serve to uphold our country’s liberty and freedom. We are extremely grateful to Martin Johnson, 1966 Mayville State graduate and USMC Corporal, and Lieutenant General Emil “Buck” Bedard (Retired, USMC), 1965 Mayville State graduate, who head up the Military Honor Garden project. These men have worked hard to ensure that the Military Honor Garden is a meaningful tribute.

Retired Col. Richard Balstad, U.S. Air Force, Wichita Falls, Texas, a 1963 Mayville State graduate who is remembered in the Military Honor Garden, recently passed away. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family members and friends, along with our sincere gratitude for his service and sacrifices.

Though I never met Col. Balstad in person, I have gotten to know a little bit about him through his dear friend Dr. Glenn Thoreson. The two grew up together in the same neighborhood just down the street from Mayville State’s Old Main. From the time they were little boys, they were interested in flying, and as youngsters they built model airplanes and flew them at what is now Jerome Berg Field. Col. Balstad pursued flying as a career in the Air Force, while Cpt. Thoreson was able to fly as a co-pilot and doctor in the Air Force for two years. Even as they pursued their separate career paths, the two remained the best of friends throughout their lives. 

Col. Balstad entered the Air Force immediately upon graduating from Mayville State and was commissioned a second lieutenant in November of 1963. Upon graduating from officer training school, he proceeded to qualify for pilot training. He received his silver wings in 1965. Balstad’s first operational assignment led him to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where he trained in the F-4-C Phantom jet fighter.

In 1966, he was assigned to DaNang Air Force Base in the Republic of Vietnam. There, he completed 100 combat missions over the most heavily defended cities in the history of the war, Hanoi and Haiphong, North Vietnam. His expertise and skill in flying and “a little bit of luck” allowed him to survive the odds of a 50% shoot-down rate.

While serving in Vietnam, Balstad 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.

He rose to the rank of colonel and served as commander of the USAF’s most advanced fighter/bomber squadron, the F-111 “ARDVARKS” 494 TFS, stationed in Lakenheath, England, a very responsible position for a highly respected commander. His mission there was to protect our NATO allies in Europe.

A distinguished Air Force command pilot who directed two squadrons during his tenure, Col. Balstad brought honor to his career and honor to his alma mater. He was bestowed the Mayville State Distinguished Alumni Award in 2017.

We are Comet Proud of and deeply indebted to Col. Richard Balstad and all who have given of themselves in military service. It is our privilege to recognize these men and women of honor in Mayville State’s Military Honor Garden. We are happy that the garden will get some national attention through the efforts of Small Town Big Deal. Mark your calendar and plan to join us at the Military Honor Garden on Saturday, Sept. 18 at 9 a.m.