Mayville State President’s Newspaper Column

By Dr. Brian Van Horn

December 19, 2020

Heroes are everywhere in the Mayville State family

A hero is defined as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Heroes may be in the spotlight or they may be in the shadows, but nonetheless, they all make a positive difference in our world. Whether they are alumni, friends, or employees, heroes can be found everywhere within the Mayville State family. When we look around, we can see that many heroes stand out as making a positive impact as we navigate the challenges of the pandemic.

On the Mayville State campus, faculty and staff give of themselves to provide students with the very best possible education and experiences at all times. We all know this has been especially difficult since last spring, when the pandemic ramped up, but they have used their can-do attitudes to make it happen. I’m particularly thankful for the dedication of Mayville State faculty and staff who are serving our residential campus this fall. Their selfless service has allowed students the opportunity for a bit of normalcy in their educational endeavors. For many students, this made learning possible because of their preference for face-to-face classes. Thank you to all faculty and staff, for what you do to allow Mayville State to continue to deliver personal service at its finest.

Another hero, Kari (Knudson) Yates, a 1985 graduate of Mayville State University, was just recently recognized as a recipient of the Moorhead (Minn.) Human Rights Commission 2020 Human Rights Award. The award recognizes significant contributions to human rights in the Moorhead community.

Kari, who is Program Manager for Literacy and English Learners at Moorhead Area Public Schools, has worked extremely hard as a volunteer with the New American community. She has devoted a great deal of time to helping this population with their English skills. In addition, she has volunteered with food distribution for the New American community during the pandemic.

Dr. John Lyng, 2001 Mayville State graduate, was high school senior in 1997, when Mayville State become a relief center for hundreds of evacuees from Grand Forks who were displaced during a disastrous flood. Long before he became an ER doctor who was trained in treating other kinds of trauma, John became aware that in a disaster, there are many ways to care for people.

He has carried that knowledge and attitude throughout his career, meeting the needs of people through hands-on care, instructing, training, mentoring, and consulting, at home, in Australia, China, and Kuwait, and on the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Recently, as a member of a national disaster medical assistance team, he has been deployed to California and Arizona to help fight the coronavirus.

While serving as North Dakota’s commerce commissioner, Michelle (Worner) Kommer, 1995 Mayville State graduate, helped to lead the state’s business response amid the coronavirus pandemic, most recently overseeing the Economic Resiliency Grant program for businesses.

Another Mayville State family member hero is Comets alumnus Nick Anderson, a relief pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays Major League Baseball team. Last week, he was named to the All-MLB First Team. While Nick’s heroism is not related directly to the pandemic, the opportunity to enjoy baseball has brought a sense of normality for our country’s citizens, something that has been important to happiness and mental health as we make our way through uncharted territory.

Unsung heroes are all around us.

As teachers, many, many Mayville State alumni are heroes every day for the important work they do in educating the future. Their jobs are never easy, but this is an especially difficult time for them as they work diligently to keep kids learning and thriving through the uncertainty of the pandemic. Administrators such as Mike Kolness, 1989 Mayville State graduate, have the enormous responsibility of leading school districts as difficult decisions are made. Mike is superintendent at East Grand Forks (Minn.) Public Schools.

Students enrolled in Mayville State’s nursing programs are also working as nurses in the field. These dedicated individuals are not only working very hard to care for patients, they also have the added responsibility of caring for families. Often this includes guiding children who are attending school remotely, while at the same time they are pursuing their own advanced education.

There are so many more Mayville State family heroes who are deserving of recognition, including those who have the vital responsibility of serving our country in the military. We are very proud to count Mayville State graduate Lt. Gen. Buck Bedard, a highly decorated retired three-star Marine general, among our own.

All heroes are significant and not one is more important than the other, but they cannot all be named here. I am extremely proud of all Mayville State family member heroes. Mayville State’s legacy of personal service goes far beyond the campus and it is wonderful to know that the heroes grounded in this extra-special quality are making a difference, not only now during the pandemic, but at all times.