MSU’s 100th ceremony

Minot State University’s 100th commencement ceremony on Friday morning was an occasion for endings as well as new beginnings.

For Minot State University President David Fuller, who is retiring this summer, it was the last graduation ceremony he will attend as president at the university he has presided over for 10 years.

Fuller, whom Terry Hjelmstad, vice chair of the state board of higher education, feted as “visionary president,” has overseen a decade of major changes on campus, from building projects such as the new Wellness Center and the remodeled Swain Hall, to improvements in academic programming. Fuller also guided the university through the Souris River flood of 2011 and the impacts of the ongoing oil boom.

The year 2013, Fuller’s final year, also marked Minot State’s centennial and its 100th graduating class. Some 565 students were eligible to walk across the stage on Friday morning and collect their diplomas. Many of the graduates celebrated by decorating their mortar boards with colorful writing and drawings, such as a Pac-man on one mortar board and the year “2014” on another.

For graduating senior Lindsey Nelson, one of the projects in honor of that 100th anniversary was also among her proudest accomplishments.

Nelson, a senior from Bainville, Mont., who graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science in communication disorders and a minor in Deaf and Hard of Hearing, said Communication Disorders this year took up the “Power of 100 challenge” and raised money for children around the world to have cleft lip surgeries through the Operation Smile Charity.

“We exceeded our goal,” said Nelson.

The department set out to raise enough money for 100 cleft lip surgeries and raised enough money for 135 surgeries. Each operation costs $2,400 and the department raised $32,000.

Many Minot State student, faculty and staff groups celebrated the centennial year with the “Power of 100” projects, each setting the goal to perform at least 100 acts of community service, said Nelson.

She said her experiences at Minot State have taught her to look at opportunities for growth.

Nelson, who spoke at commencement, received numerous awards during her years on campus and also participated in community service projects through the college.

She served as Student Government Association president during the 2011-2012 school year and, during her year in office, created a “director of marketing” position and developed a logo to brand SGA. She was also active in student government.

The audience might have been forgiven for thinking that MSU had resurrected its first president, since President Arthur G. Crane was listed as a commencement speaker. In fact, one person did wonder aloud, “Is he still alive?” joked Fuller.

But “Crane” was actually College of Arts and Sciences Dean Conrad Davidson, putting on his Chautauqua hat to play the role of the first president.

Davidson noted that there have been a number of changes in the make up of the student body and in the curriculum since Minot State’s first year. The first class at the then Normal School was made up mostly of young women, so the few male students would have had an easy time finding a date.

However, students then, like now, were not above begging their parents for money. In a letter published in the school newspaper back in 1916, a female student complained to her father that she had been studying for four hours straight and the campus was all girls. She thought she was working too hard and suggested that her father send her a bit of money. These days, students would be more apt to text a request for some spare cash to their parents, but the students at the graduation ceremony appeared to recognize a kindred spirit in the college student of 100 years ago.

Davidson said Crane was a president who was unafraid of taking initative. On the night of Aug. 27, 1912, the evening before the groundbreaking ceremony for the building that is now Old Main, Crane surreptitiously moved the survey stakes 50 yards back because he disagreed on the building’s location with State Normal Board member Martin Jacobson, who helped with the school’s physical layout. Crane wanted it back from present-day University Aveue to accommodate future growth.

Crane also was responsible for the school colors, which are red and green. The school’s art department at the time wanted three colors, but Crane wouldn’t be swayed. Davidson quipped that if today’s MSU art professor Walter Piehl were responsible for choosing the school colors, the athletic uniforms might be multicolored and the colors wouldn’t be in the lines.

Crane, the first president, guided the school through its first days. The first term of the State Normal School was on Sept. 30, 1913, in the newly constructed Minot Armory. Crane was called “Father Crane” by students and professors. He left the school for good in 1921 to take over the presidency at the University of Wyoming.

During MSU’s commencement ceremony, the university also handed out an honorary baccalaureate of arts in broadcasting degree to Rod Romine, who retired as manager of Reiten Television in 1994, and a bachelor of science degree in clinical laboratory science to the late Megan Shoal, who died in a car accident in May 2013. Shoal’s parents picked up the diploma on her behalf.