MSU President's Column for Traill County Tribune

 July 20, 2019 

Personal service experiences equip Mayville State alumni leaders to make a positive difference

Small universities play a very important role in educating students who become tremendous leaders. Mayville State offers numerous opportunities for students to get involved in a variety of activities that provide real-world experiences that help them develop their leadership skills. Playing in intercollegiate and intramural sports, singing in the choir or playing in the band, and belonging to organizations such as Collegiate DECA and student government provide invaluable experiences for our state’s and country’s future leaders.

Mayville State can boast of thousands of successful alumni who are outstanding leaders in their careers and communities. Examples include Emil Bedard, a three-star Marine general; Dr. John Lyng, medical director of North Memorial Health Ambulance Service & Air Care, as well as an emergency physician at North Memorial Health Hospital, a Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center; Lonnie Thomas, a budget analyst with the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Dr. Beth (Herbel) Eisenmann, a professor at Michigan State University; and Thea (Kaldor) Reilkoff, an attorney who specializes in intellectual property matters.

These are just a few Mayville State alumni who are leaders making a difference in our world. The above list doesn’t include the thousands of Mayville State University alumni who are touching the future through their roles as educators and coaches throughout North Dakota and the country, not to mention the many who are active in their communities as mayors, members of boards and committees, church leaders, and more. We couldn’t be more Comet Proud of our alumni!

On July 26, the National High School Athletic Coaches Association named 1991 Mayville State graduate Todd Olson the national athletic director of the year! Olson is the director of student activities for Fargo Public Schools. In addition, he serves as the president of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, which is the professional organization for high school athletic directors across the United States. The NIAAA boasts over 10,000 members and Todd is the first individual from North Dakota to serve as the group’s president.

Todd says many of his role models were the teachers and coaches he had. Growing up the son of educators in Cavalier, N.D., Todd learned first-hand every aspect of education.

Todd is a staunch advocate for activities for students, everything from student council, to athletics, to music. He knows how being involved can make a difference in the lives of young people. He uses the lessons he learned from his mentors to pay it forward as a mentor for other students and for the professionals who work with him.

Three other Mayville State graduates were finalists for National High School Athletic Coaches Association 2019 coaches of the year at the July 26 conference. Mike Mahlen was among eight finalists for football coach of the year, Rick Anderson was among eight finalists for boy cross country coach of the year, and Paul Twenge was among eight finalists for the baseball coach of the year.

It makes my buttons burst to know that Mayville State University was represented in such a big way at the national level! I have learned that this is not out of the norm. Over the years, many Mayville State graduates have been recognized as outstanding coaches at the state and national levels. Wow!

Another Mayville State University graduate is having a huge impact in his career and in his community. Brad Wehe, a 1987 graduate, became the chief executive officer of Altru Health System, based in Grand Forks, on Jan. 1, 2019. He has been with Altru since 1989, serving in leadership positions since 1991. He was manager of outreach therapy services and occupational medicine, then was administrative director of regional operations. In 2011, he was named Altru’s chief operating officer. Brad is leading Altru during a bold new era which is highlighted by the building of a new hospital.

Brad started his career as a physical therapist. He enjoys interacting with people and wanted to have a job where he could help them. “With physical therapy, it was hands-on and people relied on you to help them regain their quality of life,” said Brad. Reflecting on his current position in healthcare, Wehe says, “No matter what your healthcare job is, you are a part of giving patients hope and a successful outcome.”

Knowing that these shining stars and so many others had their start at Mayville State University gives me great satisfaction. Their success underscores the importance of Mayville State University. Not only are we impacting the lives of our alumni directly, we are impacting the world through their work. The important work that takes place at “The School of Personal Service” is truly making a difference in our state and in our world. This is essential for the progress of our state and nation as workforce needs become more and more important.