MSU President's Newspaper Column

January 13, 2024 

Mayville State alumni make a big impact as educators

The late Dr. James Warren Neilson, Mayville State professor emeritus’s book, “The School of Personal Service,” tells the history of the university. It is a great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about how “The School of Personal Service” came to be and how it has evolved and grown.

Dr. Neilson began his book with this paragraph: “The establishment of a college in Mayville marked the end of a dream and the beginning of a grand adventure. The vision of the advantages inherent in higher education had long abided in the thoughts and yearnings of the pioneers who settled eastern North Dakota. Far from being untutored sodbusters, many had tasted enough education to feel its allure, and more understood, however imperfectly, that their children could rise in life beyond the station of their parents through the power of knowledge.”

There is no doubt that the hopes and dreams of the early pioneers were embraced by the generations that followed. Mayville State is truly an outstanding and unique institution of higher education where lives are changed for the better. We are grateful for the early leaders and those who have followed, and we consider it an honor to take the baton as trustees of their legacy for today while preparing for a successful future and a legacy to pass along to the next generation.

While the institution began as a normal school that prepared future educators, new opportunities for various academic programs, degrees, and career paths have helped to transform the university over the years. The institution’s founding mission to educate future teachers remains at the core and is very strong. Nearly 800 alumni teach in North Dakota K-12 schools currently. There is a Mayville State alumnus teaching in every county in North Dakota, except one.

It's amazing to consider how many Mayville State graduates are making a difference as outstanding educators in our state and beyond. Mayville State-educated teachers are well-known for their outstanding qualities and are highly regarded and sought after.

Several Mayville State graduates have received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award honors the country’s best teachers of mathematics and science. Now an associate professor of mathematics at Mayville State, Fred Strand was one of 103 teachers nationwide to receive the award in 2010. At the time, Fred was teaching math in the Hatton (N.D.) School District. We are very fortunate to have Fred as a faculty member at Mayville State now, where he not only is helping students grow in their mathematics skills, but he is also teaching future educators how to be outstanding teachers of mathematics.

Thompson (N.D.) Public School District employs many graduates of Mayville State who are making a difference for young people. They include Superintendent John Maus and High School Principal Jason Schwabe, as well as about a dozen teachers and coaches. At Kindred (N.D.) Public School, Mike Kolness is superintendent, and Kent Packer is high school principal.

Mayville State alumnus Bryan Strand is high school principal at Barnesville, Minn., and he is also their highly successful football coach. Brian Korf is superintendent of Pelican Rapids (Minn.) Public School and coaches their top-rated girls basketball team.

I could go on and on listing successful Mayville State alumni who are serving in our K-12 schools. The list is long, and the impact made by these special individuals is substantial. We are extremely proud to count them as members of the Mayville State family. I think it’s safe to say that our forefathers would also be profoundly pleased to know that their hopes and dreams have come to fruition and continue to be immeasurably important 134 years later, in the 21st century.

In these columns, it is not possible for me to recognize all the Mayville State graduates who are changing the world one student at a time through their personal service, but please do stay tuned. The story will continue …