The MSU Alumni Association is delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate with these Homecoming honorees in 2021. They were first selected for their awards in 2019 and were to be recognized in October of that year. A snowstorm that brought about 18" of snow to the Mayville-Portland area prevented that from happening. The hope was to honor the group in 2020, but out of safety related to the COVID-19 pandemic, all indoor events that had been scheduled for Mayville State Homecoming were cancelled.

Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees:

Inductees to the Mayville State University Athletic Hall of Fame fall into the following categories: athlete, team, Mayville State coach, Mayville State athletic staff, or honorary member. In order to qualify for induction, athletes must have graduated from or left school at Mayville State at least ten years prior to induction, and have earned two letters in one sport or one letter in two or more sports. The Mayville State University Athletic Hall of Fame Selection Committee chooses inductees from a pool of nominations submitted throughout the year.

Rich Dean.jpgRich Dean

Richard “Rich” Dean was a first baseman on three Mayville State University baseball teams that are among the most-decorated in Comet history, including the 2001 Region III championship team. He captained the 2002 team that advanced to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, finishing in fifth place. He earned conference MVP honors in 2000; and first-team all-conference, first-team all-region; honorable mention all-American; and conference and NAIA all-American academic teams each of his three years. He graduated in 2002 with a major in business management and a minor in project management. An intern for the MSU business department, he was later a graduate assistant for the University of North Dakota baseball program.  Subsequently he was the head coach for the Medicine Hat, Alberta, Mavericks, a semi-pro baseball team. Rich is active as a board member and coach in hockey programs in Maple Grove, Minn., as well as coaching youth baseball. 

Cassie Leraas.jpgCassie Leraas Kallenbach

Cassie Leraas Kallenbach, a Hunter, N.D. native and 2009 MSU graduate, was a Comet from 2004 to 2008 and was undoubtedly one of the best women's basketball players in Comet history, amassing 1,353 career point and other impressive statistics. She was named NAIA Division II honorable mention All-America and all-Dakota Athletic Conference team twice; helped her team reach the first-ever DAC championship game her senior year; and to back-to-back winning seasons, an uncommon feat. She was named the conference player of the week several times. In the 2005-06 season she was ranked 27th in the nation in points per game, 18.7, in NAIA II basketball. She earned a major in sports management/exercise science with a minor in coaching and later attended Minot State University for a bachelor's degree in physical education. She has been a head coach for high school girls basketball as well as for elementary boys teams. She was selected as District 12 Coach of the Year after the 2012-13 season.  

jeremy strand.jpgJeremy Strand

Mayville native Jeremy Strand, MSU Class of 1999, was part of Comet baseball for five years, as a solid first baseman and hitter. He was later a volunteer assistant coach under Coach Berry. The Comets won regular-season and conference championships each of Strand's playing years, during their multi-consecutive conference championships run. Strand's numbers at the plate grew each year, culminating in a batting average of .389 and a 77% slugging percentage his senior year. His on-base percentage increased as well. Post-season honors include being named all-conference and all-region his junior and senior years and honorable mention all-American his senior year. He continues to be active in sports, coaching his daughters, Parker and Paetyn, in football, hockey, and softball and as a longtime member of the Comet Athletic Club. Strand majored in business administration.

Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame Inductees:

The MSU Athletic Hall of Fame adopted the “Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame” in 2010. The purpose of this division of the Hall of Fame is to recognize Mayville State alumni who have excelled in their coaching careers. The Mayville State University Athletic Hall of Fame Selection Committee chooses the recipients of the award from a pool of nominations submitted throughout the year.

Mark Frost.jpgMark Frost

Mark Frost has worked with student athletes at all levels, from elementary to high school, as an assistant and head coach in track, boys basketball, and girls basketball. He was head coach for the Hope-Page (N.D.) girls basketball team from 1994-2002, during which time they made it to two regional championship games. In 1991 Frost helped bring back a high school baseball team to Hope-Page. The team found success starting in the mid-90s and made their first state high school tournament appearance in 1998. In the summer of 1998 Mark assisted with the Legion team that won the state championship. Over a 20-year span Frost’s teams made the state high school tournament five times and were region runners-up six times. He guided Legion teams to state titles in 2003 and 2004. The 2004 team was named NDAPSSA Non-School Team of the Year. Mark was named Region Coach of the Year six times and N.D. State Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2003. The baseball field in Hope was named Frost Field in 2004. Frost is grateful for the opportunity to work with many special student athletes and to make many lasting memories over the years. He coached Katie Richards, who was named Miss Basketball in 1995 and later went on to have much success with the UND Fighting Sioux. Frost retired in the spring of 2021 after 40 years of teaching in the Hope-Page School System, where he taught upper elementary grades for 12 years, then began teaching high school mathematics for the remainder of his career. He graduated from Mayville State in 1980 with majors in Mathematics and Social Studies and returned in the fall of 1980 to earn an elementary endorsement.

Curt Herman.jpgCurt Herman

For nearly three decades, Curt Herman was a multi-sport coach, with both boys and girls under his tutelage, no doubt incorporating his own experience playing for Coach Al Meyer as a Comet baseball player. His longest tenure was at Tolna, N.D. where he coached for 28 years. Over the years, he has coached high school baseball, Legion ball, girls golf, girls basketball, and boys basketball. He was named District or Regional Coach of the Year several times in different sports and was the State Class B Coach of the Year in both boys and girls basketball in 1993-94. Additionally, in the summer of 1994 he was the Lions Class B Boys All-Star Basketball coach when the “B's” defeated the Class A All-Stars in both games. Beginning in 2008, he coached men's basketball at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, N.D. He is an inaugural member of the Tolna Athletic Hall of Fame. His professional sports-related activities include being on the NSHSCA Baseball Advisory Board; Region Four Baseball Chairman; NDIAAA Executive Board; NDHSCA Executive Board; and Lions All-Star Basketball chairman. Curt graduated from MSU in 1979 with a major in business education and minors in physical education and drivers education.   

Earl Larson.jpgEarl Larson

Portland, N.D. native Earl Larson, a 1968 graduate who majored in mathematics and physical education, learned something about football as a Comet who played under legendary coach Jerome Berg and, from 1968-70,  as a player for the Racine, Wis. Raiders, a semi-pro football team.  At Racine he taught junior high mathematics and coached gymnastics, track and wrestling. In 1975 he moved to Thorp, Wis., where he took over a fledgling wrestling program as the high school wrestling coach. He ultimately achieved his dream of coaching high school football, beginning as an assistant from 1975-77. From 1978-97 he was Thorp's head football coach. Again he took a team that was struggling early to becoming the conference champion in his fourth year at the helm. In 20 years of coaching his record was 125-67, with only four losing seasons. He continued to teach mathematics and also coached wrestling; junior high girls basketball; and was the first coach of the Thorp girls softball team. The fledgling fast-pitch team ultimately compiled a record o1of 152-82 and won two conference championships. Each year, in each sport, his athletes improved, winning conference championships and registering all-conference players. In 1993 he was chosen the Channel 7 Coach of the Year in the northwe4st area of Wisconsin by TV station WSAW from Wausau, Wis. Many of Larson's players played college football and two went on to the NFL. Larson's achievements at Thorp include a state football championship in 1993; runner-up in 1994; selection as head football coach of the north squad for the Shrine Bowl in 1997; election to the Wisconsin High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2002; and coaching the Chippewa McDonell H.S. girls softball to a state runner-up in 2005.  

Todd Olson.jpgTodd Olson  

Todd Olson, a Cavalier, N.D. native, amassed a host of honors as a Comet basketball player. His basketball IQ served him well when he moved to the coaching side of the game first as assistant coach for boys basketball at Red River High School while he was teaching mathematics at Central High School in Grand Forks, N.D.; then as an assistant girls basketball coach at Central, and ultimately as the head boys basketball coach at Central, where his Knights won the Class A boys basketball championship in 1996. He was named the Class A Boys Basketball Coach of the Year in 1995; the N.D. AP Male Sports High School Coach of the Year in 1996; and the Lions All-Star Coach, also in 1996.  He was the East Region Coach of the year in 1995, 1996, and 2004, when his teams were EDC champions. Olson left the basketball sidelines to become the athletic director for the Grand Forks Public Schools in 2005, leaving in 2012 to become the Director of Student Activities for the Fargo Public Schools in 2012. However, coaching, teaching and leading are intertwined, and Olson is dedicated to promoting coaches education through his leadership in several state, regional, and national organizations.  He was the East Region AD of the Year in 2007 and 2010 and the Class A AD of the Year in 2010. At the state level he was been the president of the North Dakota High School Coaches Association, the North Dakota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, and the North Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors. Nationally he was president of the NIAAA board of directors, where he is also on certifications and coach education committees. Most recently, he had the prestigious honor of being selected as the National Athletic Director of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. Todd graduated from Mayville State in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics education. He earned a master's degree in educational leadership from the University of North Dakota in 1998.

Richard Saxlund Photo.jpgRichard “Dick” Saxlund

“Anyone wanting an education in the evolution of high school wrestling would be hard-pressed to find a better teacher than Richard “Dick” Saxlund,” said a Minnesota newspaper about the 1965 Mayville State graduate. Throughout his 40 years of coaching, Saxlund has earned accolades as a mentor, an inspiration to aspiring young wrestlers, a producer of champions, a coach “who expected you to do your best at all times,” and as a “die-hard wrestling contributor who devoted a lifetime of service to wrestling.”  The Lisbon, N.D. native taught and coached at Leroy-Ostrander (Minn.) H.S. from 1965-67; and Pipestone (Minn.) H.S. from 1967-96. He was an assistant junior high football coach for more than 20 years and taught for 40 years. All in all, Saxlund coached five state champions, five state runners-up, 13 state place-winners, 33 state qualifiers, one NHCSA High School Nationals runner-up, and 10 collegiate All-Americans with three national titles. When he retired, he was in the Top 10 of 100 Minnesota wrestling coaches. He is a member of the Pipestone H.S. Wrestling Hall of Fame; the Pipestone-Jasper Athletic Hall of Fame; the Dave Bartelma Hall of Fame; and the Mayville State University Athletic Hall of Fame as a member of the 1961 football team. He was a member of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association. He learned part of his trade as a football player and wrestler at Mayville State, where he was a four-year letterman and two-year starter in football from 1961-64; and a four-year starter and three-time captain in wrestling, from 1961-65. His wrestling record was 46-16, and he was a state runner-up and a two-time conference runner-up at Mayville State. He graduated with a double major in business education and physical education, and later earned a master’s degree from Winona (Minn.) State. 

Performing Arts Hall of Fame Inductees:

The purpose of the Mayville State University Performing Arts Hall of Fame is to honor and preserve the memory of those who performed in band, choir, speech, or theater, the representative faculty, and others who have contributed in a very outstanding and positive way to the promotion of Mayville State University performing arts programs.

Michael Lien.jpgMichael Lien

The stage has been a focus of Michael Lien's life, both as a college student and professionally. At Mayville State he participated in 13 shows in four years, both on the stage and behind the scenes in tech support. He was voted Actor of the Year twice. In addition to his involvement in theater, he was a four-year member of the forensics team. He was twice voted Journalist of the Year for the college newspaper. His theater work continued as he performed in New York City for 14 years, appearing in Shakespearean plays, Restoration comedy, musicals, and corporate/retail murder mysteries. When he moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1997, he joined Toastmasters and used his performing background to mentor Toastmaster groups. In California, he continues to share his performing arts skills with a church choir, Toastmasters, and work-related talent events. Michael graduated in 1980 with majors in speech and drama and English literature.  

Laurie Nielson.jpgLaurie White Nielson

Laurie White Nielson, a speech and theater major and sociology minor who participated in speech, debate, forensics, and theater, was especially competitive in forensics, impressively placing fourth and tenth in national competitions in rhetorical criticism and oratory. She was the champion in state oratorical contests in 1976, 1977, and 1979. She earned a “best supporting actress” nomination in 1978. Upon graduation in 1980, she received the Pi Kappa Delta award for outstanding performance in forensics for 1976-1980. Laurie earned a master's degree in Speech Communication at North Dakota State University, where she is also credentialed in sociology. She is further credentialed in Teaching English as a Second Language from Minnesota State University Moorhead and St. Cloud State University. Her academic background and empathetic style serve her well in her professional life at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead, Minn., where she was nominated for  “best instructor of the year” from 2009-2019. She received that honor in 2017. In her challenging role at MState, she works with students from more than 20 different countries, many of them refugees. Laurie earned top honors for ethnography papers delivered at a Health Communication Conference in Kentucky and at a TESOL conference in Minneapolis.

Distinguished Alumni Award:

The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented to graduates of Mayville State who have been leaders in their fields for a minimum of ten years.

Jane Bjornstad.jpgJane Bjornstad

Jane Bjornstad graduated in 1979 with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education and an associate of arts degree in early childhood education. She utilized that background as she taught in North Dakota elementary schools for ten years. In September 1991, she made a career change and entered on duty with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a Community Outreach Specialist (COS), one of the first such full-time specialists in the United States. In her work with the FBI, she has been described as a “pioneer” and “trailblazer in community outreach at the FBI.” At first she was assigned to be the secretary for the Organized Crime and Drug Squad, but in August 1997, COS Bjornstad was selected as the Phoenix Division's first Community Outreach Specialist. As COS, she is responsible for coordinating Phoenix Field Office's Community Outreach programs for the State of Arizona, which include the FBI Citizens Academy, FBI Teen Academy and International Community Awareness Program. COS Bjornstad is actively involved and fully committed to fostering a greater understanding of the role of federal law enforcement in the State of Arizona by giving business, religious, civic, and community leaders the opportunity to gain an appreciation for the services the FBI provides to the public, as well as to state and local law enforcement agencies. Because of her exemplary work, Bjornstad has been awarded several certificates of merit and recognition from FBI headquarters and several performance awards in the form of substantial cash and time-off incentives.  In 2009 she was honored to be the recipient of the first-ever FBI Community Outreach Specialist of the Year award. Jane retired in July of 2020 after 29 years of service with the FBI.

John Lyng.jpgDr. John Lyng

Mayville native and 2001 Mayville State graduate, Dr. John Lyng, MD, FACEP, FAEMS, NRP, earned his MD at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences in 2005. He completed a residency in Emergency Medicine and a fellowship year in EMS and Disaster Medicine at the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University. In addition to being one of the first physicians in the United States to achieve Board certification in EMS medicine, a new subspecialty certification established in 2013, Dr. Lyng is also Board certified in Emergency Medicine and is a nationally registered EMT-Paramedic. He has more than 20 years of EMS experience across the United States and internationally. From 2010-2019, Lyng served as medical director of North Memorial Health Ambulance Service & Air Care, and has worked as an Emergency Physician at North Memorial Hospital, Level I Adult Level II Pediatric Trauma Center in Robbinsdale, Minn. since 2010. Lyng also serves as a medical specialist on the Minnesota Task Force I Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) team and is active as a medical officer on the Minnesota-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (MN-1 DMAT), an asset that is part of the federal National Disaster Medical System (NDMS).  Initially deployed in 2012 to aid with medical concerns following Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, the DMAT team has been deployed to California and Arizona to help deal with the COVID-19 crisis; to Louisiana after a hurricane hit; to Washington, D.C. to provide medical aid during President Biden’s inauguration, if necessary; and most recently to the border to give aid to immigrants. He has been the Chief Medical Officer on several of those deployments. A member of local, state, and national committees and organizations that are involved in advancing the field of EMS medicine and prehospital care, Dr. Lyng was recently appointed to the Minnesota State Trauma Advisory Committee. His leadership in both Emergency Medicine and EMS Medicine was recognized by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) with conferment of fellowship stature in both organizations. Dr. Lyng was especially honored to be one of the inaugural group of 205 EMS physicians who were conferred Fellow of the Academy of Emergency Medical Services (FAEMS) status, a prestigious mark of distinction that speaks to his contributions to NAEMSP and highlights his commitment to the advancement and refinement of EMS medicine. He is the recipient of numerous honors of distinction.

Distinguished Service Award:

The Distinguished Service Award is presented to Mayville State personnel, faculty, or administrators who make exceptional contributions, with a minimum of ten years of service. Other individuals who are eligible to receive the award are those whose service activities enhance Mayville State. Both Mayville State alumni and non-alumni are eligible for the award.

Becky Gunderson.jpgBecky Gunderson

Mayville State graduate and Mayville native Rebecca (Becky) Gunderson started her professional career as an elementary teacher in New Mexico. Upon her return to the May-Port area, she was initially hired to be a part-time manager of the Mayville State swimming pool and a HPER instructor in the swimming program. Her career at MSU blossomed as her teaching duties expanded; she eventually taught all of the American Red Cross aquatics classes; First Aid and CPR; Rhythms and Tumbling; Folk/Social Dance; Outdoor Pursuits; and Foundations and History of PE and Sport. As manager of the Campus Center pool she built a highly successful summer swimming program for local and area children. Along the way she began to be involved in state, regional and national organizations: the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD); the North Dakota Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NDAHPERD); and the Central District Association of the AAHPERD (CDAAHPERD). She was a highly respected member of the organizations with which she was actively involved, receiving several awards. Becky was highly active on campus as HPER's representative to the faculty senate, as faculty adviser to the HPER Majors Club and as MSU's Wellness coordinator. Her energy, competence, and enthusiasm served her well both on the campus and beyond. The work she has done through the years for all of the alphabet organizations has been noteworthy. She retired from Mayville State in 2016.

Jim Lyng.jpgJim Lyng

James (Jim) Lyng retired from Mayville State in 2007 after 32 years of service, keeping the Lewy Lee Fieldhouse and athletics in order. His work was more than custodial; he was not only in charge of janitorial and site preparation for campus athletic events, he was also required to make repairs or adjustments to athletic equipment and/or facilities, often when budgets were limited. While he did most of the day-to-day tasks himself, work-study students helped with some of the work. He used his organizational and management skills competently, managing the student work force skillfully and efficiently. He estimated that over time, he supervised approximately 2,000 student workers. The workload expanded when Title IX mandated the addition of women's athletics and when the Lewy was the site for high school tournaments. There was not much down time in Jim's 32 years of service. His dedication and sense of responsibility were noteworthy. He was perhaps one of Mayville State's most familiar employees and was certainly one of its most dependable. Jim passed away March 1, 2021 after being hospitalized with pneumonia.