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I always knew I had the best job on the campus,
maybe in Fargo, maybe in North Dakota ...
Members of the faculty tend to be marooned in their classrooms, labs and departmental coffee lounges.
Administrators are expected to hobnob with others of their ilk, all the while attending meetings
of numbing length.
Support personnel are trapped in their little cubicles save occasional excursions to the Union or
the Bison Turf.
But our jobs, in the Office of Communications and University Relations, in the words of a well-known
graphic designer of the day, were to get out, walk around and report the scene.
What a treat! We had the privilege, pleasure and honor of meeting a whole lot of NDSUs people over
the yearsstudents, faculty, administrators, support staff and, most of all, its graduates. And the
perfect excuse to sit down and ask them to tell us about themselves, take their pictures and write
about them. And we even got paid for doing that.
Bob Crom, Don Schwartz, Beth Rochefort and Tom Goodale had set the tone for the Office of Communications
and University Relations well before I got there. It was September of 1963. Bob had just returned from
a years leave which he had used to orchestrate a name change for the doughty North Dakota Agricultural
College to that of North Dakota State University. It was a team of bright, young, enthusiastic people,
eager to get on with their lives and careers.
Three of the five were single and therefore available for 50-60 hours a week or more. NDSU was a very
big part of their (and all of our) lives. We attended the plays, concerts, football and basketball games,
track meets, chaperoned fraternity term parties, attended alumni functions and banquetsquite a few of
those perhaps a bit above and beyond the call of our job descriptions. It was taken for granted
that you would put in eight hours in the office, then move on to other things during evenings and weekends.
Jerry Lingen had taken over the Alumni Association about the same time I joined the staff as news bureau
editor. He was so hopelessly understaffed (himself and a secretary), that he seemed grateful for any help
we were willing to giveediting Bison Briefs, putting Homecoming banquet programs together, or volunteering
to attend an alumni chapter meeting in Des Moines, Madison, Indianapolis, Kansas City or Zap.
Not surprisingly, one by one, that first group of people moved on to what they perceived to be greener
(or at least warmer) pastures, but by then the pattern was well established, and in a somewhat different
sense, continues to persist to this day.
|(L to R) Irv and Marie Rector, Don Schwartz, Les Pavek
Looking back on three very stimulating decades, there are lots
of highlights that stand out:
Being picked up out of a crowd of fellow tourists at the front gate of Windsor Castle by Irv
and Marie Rector in the Burroughs Corporations sleek Daimler limousine and driven by Reg,
the chauffeur, to their elegant flat on Londons Hyde Park.
Sitting in the Washington Bureau of ABC with Howard K. Smith and Sam Donaldson on the night Richard
Nixon turned over his tapes while NDSUs John Lynch, chief of the networks Washington Bureau, orchestrated
the pool production from the White House.
Getting a dinnertime phone call at home from Mike Hurdelbrink in Cleveland, announcing Hey,
Ive got an idea for a story in Bison Briefs! Jim Critchfield has been under cover for 30 years with
the CIA, but hes retired now. I think hed be willing to talk. (It turned out that he was, having
just gotten back from advising the Sultan of Oman on his countrys infrastructure.)
Taking Bob Hendricksons picture and interviewing him in his office on the 50th floor of the Equitable
Building in the heart of Manhattan.
Listening to Ben Barrett recount how Maj. James A. Ulio, later Adjutant General of the whole U.S. Army
in WWII, told him to suck in his stomach while standing in the ranks in front of Festival Hall.
Driving into San Francisco for a dinner in Chinatown with my wife, Lou, and Tomm Smail, the only Bison
player who had warmed the bench during our Camellia Bowl victory and didnt feel like celebrating. (The next
year Smail was chosen MVP.)
Having Steve Sando come down from the class we taught in the old gym on the top floor of Ceres Hall
and announce with a roll of his eyes, We had the lecture on the history of type.
Having Gov. Art Link and his wife walk up to your table at a Memorial Union banquet and inquire politely,
Mind if we join you? (It was the night Peggy Lee sang on the campus.)
Getting a four-word phone call from President Laurel Loftsgard in Old MainCan you come over?
It always made you feel like General Halftrack at Camp Swampy, getting a phone call from the Pentagon.
|(L to R) Art Link, H. R. Albrecht, Peggy Lee
We could go on ...
Those are just a few examples of why it was almost always fun to show up for work at the Office of
Communications and University Relations on the first floor of Ceres Hall.
To be honest, of course, it wasnt always like that. There were those inevitable days when it seemed like
I had the worst job in town.
The Forum didnt run a story you had knocked yourself out writing and checking for accuracy, and that
everyone was expecting to see in the paper. (Ruined quite a few Sunday mornings at home.)
There were inevitably days like that.
The common thread in it all, however, as NDSUs new President Joe Chapman perceptively observed at his
inauguration, was: The people of NDSU.
Are theyNDSUs students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumnireally any different from any other
random assortment of people you might run into in Seattle; Columbus, Ga.; Manhattan, Kansas; Inchon, Korea;
or Brookings, S.D., (all places we had the sometimes dubious pleasure of working and living)? Maybe not.
With luck, youre likely to run into good ones virtually regardless of where you go.
Still, it may be a figment of our imagination or what a behavioral scientist might call structuring
your perceptions, there is something naggingly different about North Dakotans in general, people
from this region, and NDSUs people in particular that we had the good fortune to meet, come to know and
work with over the years.
Basic decency; openness; approachability; the virtual absence of pettiness, pretense or snobbery. Qualities
you cant quite put your finger on, but dont always encounter elsewhere. Whatever it is, were convinced
its worth preserving and is not something to be taken lightly. It goes back to little things like having
the states governor call you by your first name. And regardless of where you run into NDSUs people
Washington, New York, London or Grassy Buttethose qualities seem to persist throughout their lives.
Is it truly a special place? Face it, its probably not the Harvard of the Prairies, or the West Point
of the Plains (as South Dakota State once described itself). What it is, however, is exactly the kind
of university Justin Morrill and his pals had in mind around the time of the Civil War, when they created
a system of public universities intended to be of, by and for the people of their states.
Whats the message in all of this for members of the faculty, students, administrators, alumni and the
Legislative Appropriations Committee? NDSU deserves the best you have to offer, to be prized, nurtured,
respected and perpetuated. Its a legacy handed down from the people who created North Dakota and its
land-grant university more than a century ago.
It was an honor and a privilege to have played a part in all of that. And quite a lot of fun as well.
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