MSU President's column for Traill County Tribune

June 7, 2014 

Mayville State will recognize distinguished alumni and friends at June 20 dinner


We’re very excited about plans that are being made for Alumni Days, June 20 and 21. There is much to celebrate, including Mayville State’s 125th anniversary. We hope you’ll join us in the festivities, which are being held in conjunction with Mayville-Portland’s annual Summerfest. The May-Port Lions Club members are doing a great job of organizing and coordinating a celebration that can be enjoyed by young and old on June 19, 20, 21, and 22.

A highlight of Mayville State’s plans for Alumni Days will be the annual Alumni Association Awards Dinner. It will be held Friday, June 20, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the MSU Campus Center Luckasen Room. The dinner will be followed by musical entertainment from Mayville State’s nationally recognized jazz musicians from the 60s and 70s. Everyone is invited to participate in the festivities.

This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are Richard Davison, Joe Dunn, Ronald Gibbens, Michelle Worner Kommer, and Jackie Puppe Wotipka. Distinguished Service Award recipients are Cindy Petersen, Kim Lauf, and Shireen Grinager.

Dr. Richard Davison, Bismarck, N.D., graduated from Mayville State in 1956. He has been a successful educator, coach, scholar, board member, and executive in state government. He was a research specialist and director of federal funds for the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, and later became Associate Commissioner of Higher Education for Academic Affairs. He retired as director of the University of North Dakota Graduate Center in Bismarck in 2004.

Joe Dunn, Bemidji, Minn., started out his working life as a teacher and coach, and spent the bulk of his career in various positions with State Farm Insurance, where he was highly successful. Joe has been very active in his community, volunteering his time for a number of causes, including Bemidji State University athletics, the Shrine, and the Elks. Joe graduated from Mayville State in 1965.

Ronald Gibbens, Grand Forks, N.D., is president/CEO of the North Dakota Association of the Disabled (NDAD), an organization he founded in 1975. His leadership skills have made NDAD the largest charitable gaming organization in the state, providing more than $39 million of program services to assist individuals with disabilities in North Dakota enhance the quality of their lives. He has dedicated his life to serving individuals with disabilities and minority groups in many different capacities. Gibbens is a 1965 Mayville State graduate.

Michelle Worner Kommer, Fargo, N.D., graduated from Mayville State in 1995 and went on to earn her master’s and law degrees. She is the chief administrative officer and general counsel at Western State Bank, leading the human resource, information technology, legal, and loan/deposit operations functions. She has been a passionate advocate for child welfare in North Dakota, as a foster and adoptive parent, and in founding the North Dakota Heart Gallery.

Jackie Puppe Wotipka, Edmonds, Wash., has a teaching career that spans the country, and even the globe. She’s spent most of her time teaching elementary-age children and leading gifted programs in the state of Washington. Known for her innovative ideas, Jackie founded Multiple Intelligences Academy for pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade several years ago. She is the owner and director of the school. Jackie graduated from Mayville State in 1987.

Shireen Grinager and Kim Lauf, both of Mayville, have made a huge impact at Mayville State University in many ways, and especially through their work with Tables du Jour, an event held annually to support the MSU music department. Begun in 1995 through the leadership efforts of Kim and Shireen, tens of thousands of dollars have been raised, and proceeds have funded hundreds of scholarships for Mayville State students. Kim and Shireen’s support for Mayville State does not begin or end with Tables du Jour. They have both been very active in planning and carrying out numerous social events for the MSU Foundation. These women have used their flair and talent for decorating and entertaining to produce some amazing events on behalf of Mayville State University and the MSU Foundation. Through their work, countless friends and alumni have been touched. Kim recently completed two terms as a member of the MSU Foundation Board, while Shireen is currently in her second term on the board. Shireen graduated from Mayville State in 1967.

Cindy Petersen, a 1993 Mayville State graduate, was very active on the Mayville State campus while she was a student, and she has extended this involvement and commitment to Mayville State University by serving as a member of the MSU Alumni Association board. She has been a member of the board since 1997, and is currently the board secretary. She was in charge of the Alumni Association’s homecoming festivities for several years. In addition, she was an active member of the MSU Farmers Bowl Auction Committee for two years. A true Comet, Cindy supports Mayville State through and through and in a variety of ways.

The Alumni Association has extended a special invitation this year to all former recipients of the Distinguished Alumni and Distinguished Service Awards for a “gathering of the greats.” The event will provide a wonderful opportunity to see many of Mayville State’s distinguished alumni and friends. A good number of these individuals have indicated their plans to attend, and we’re excited to see them!

I hope you’ll plan to join us in honoring our current and past recipients of the Distinguished Service and Distinguished Alumni Awards on Friday, June 20. Tickets for the Alumni Association Awards Dinner are $20 each. Click here to purchase your ticket, or contact the MSU Foundation at 701-788-4750 or RSVP deadline is Monday, June 9.

See the full Alumni Days 2014 schedule at