DRAGON PRIDE. It runs deep among our alumni and students. For many regional families, an MSUM education is a family tradition. These families have attended this eclectic institution at all stages of its life—Moorhead State Teachers College, Moorhead State College, Moorhead State University and Minnesota State University Moorhead. The name doesn’t matter; it’s the connection students make with their faculty members, the lifelong friendships they develop and the excellent preparation they receive to impact their world that matters. Here’s a look at some of our favorite Dragon families.
“There has never been an expectation that we would go to Moorhead State because our dad did, but we were all drawn there for its own merit,” said Marceia (Clark) Andreasen ’97 (social studies).
Marceia’s dad, Joe Clark ’71 & ’80 (BS & MS, speech language hearing science), started the Dragon tradition. He and his wife, Becky, lived in the Pierce trailer court in Moorhead with their children while he was a student. The family returned to Moorhead when Joe came back to get his master’s degree. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that the boys would follow in his footsteps, but Matt ’94 (health and physical education) and Nathan ’97 (special education) came to MSU to wrestle under legendary coach John Sterner, and younger brother Jon (JT) ’95 (elementary education) followed.
“My dad thought MSU would be a good fit for me so I gave it a try,” Matt said. He wrestled with Nate and was team captain his senior year. “It was cool to wrestle together again because we were on the same team in high school.”
When Marceia and her husband moved to Park Rapids, she commuted 90 miles one way to work on her MSU degree. “When Moorhead State became an option I was really excited because that’s where you go if you want to be a teacher,” she said.
After a divorce, she moved to Moorhead and joined her brothers full time at the university. “It was fun to have my brothers there. I had a social life without having to do any of the work!”
She met her husband, Joey Andreasen ’95 (elementary education) also a wrestler, through her brothers.
“I had the privilege of wrestling for the incredible Coach John Sterner. I had success individually and as a team, which makes a demanding sport fun,” Joey said. “My senior year my future brother-in-law Matt was my coach and I also had to wrestle off my other future brother-in-law Nate every week to make the team. Plus, without Moorhead State wrestling I never would have met my beautiful wife!”
Marceia’s daughter, Kelly Falk ’14 (public relations), was a little Dragon at the campus daycare center while Marceia was in class, but she didn’t follow in her mother’s college footsteps. She attended a larger university before transferring to MSUM.
“I never felt connected at my previous school,” Kelly said. “Moorhead was smaller, friendlier and more supportive.” She found camaraderie and stimulation in Public Relations Student Society of America. “I couldn't believe the opportunities I was presented with to travel and meet intelligent people from all over the country who were doing the same things I was interested in.”
“Kelly talks a lot about how supportive and helpful her MSUM professors were and how they really cared about her and her success,” Marceia said. “That's the exact same feeling I experienced at MSU.”
The entire family felt connected at MSUM. Kelly’s sister, Taylor Falk ’11 (graphic communications), toured other top-notch schools but decided on MSUM. “I wanted to play softball so that was a big reason why I chose Moorhead. I have made lifelong friends through softball and attended the first alumni game last year.”
Her experience mirrored her family’s. “You won’t get overlooked at MSUM,” Taylor said. “Professors have your back and want you to succeed.”
“We are definitely a Dragon family,” Marceia said. “Everybody found their own way there for their own reasons, and it ended up being a great fit for all of us.”
The Blackhawk Lounge, owned by Moorhead businessmen and natives John and Ted Ingersoll, was one of the hot spots for locals and college students in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Alumnus John Ingersoll ’32 (elementary education & political science) was also the first president of the Moorhead State Teacher’s College’s student commission, and he was a football and basketball athlete. His Moorhead roots run deep.
John married Ada Holmes ’67 (English) and raised their family in what is now the Alumni House on the MSUM campus. Their three sons—John ’66 (German), a retired teacher; Bruce, deceased; and Wayne ’67 (English & social studies), a retired Moorhead school teacher—all attended Moorhead State College.
“There was no pressure to come to school here, but I never thought of anything else because I lived across the street,” Wayne said. He lived at home while attending school. In fact, his mother attended school the same time he did and they walked across the stage together to receive their college diplomas!
Even though he lived at home, he still made strong connections at MSU, mostly through the Owls fraternity. He spearheaded the Owls 2001 centennial celebration, which attracted more than 300 attendees.
He made a lifetime connection with Jeanne Urbaniak ’65 (English), who lived across the street from the Ingersolls at Ma Jackson’s, the beloved mother Owl.
“I remember buying a new dress and new shoes for the homecoming dance,” Jeanne said. “That was the first time Wayne came over and picked me up. He took me home to meet his mother and dad for the first time.”
The retired English teachers have been married 46 years and live one block from MSUM’s Lommen Hall, the education building where their daughter Erin (Ingersoll) Gillett ’99 (curriculum & instruction) is an associate professor and chair of the School of Teaching and Learning.
“One of the strong childhood memories I have is walking through campus and people recognizing my mom or dad; they always knew who the Ingersolls were,” Erin said.
Wayne took the young teen to MSU’s centennial celebration and she vividly recalls him telling her that she was one of the only people in the entire room that will be at the 150th celebration.
“We don’t boast about it, but we are very proud to say we went to Moorhead State,” Wayne said.
Erin and her sister are third generation educators. Bonnie (Ingersoll) Stafford ’98 (history & social studies), teaches at Moorhead High School and is married to fellow Dragon Thad Stafford ’97 (criminal justice), an officer with the Moorhead Police Department.
Erin earned her undergraduate degree at another local school, but was part of the first cohort for MSUM’s new master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. She also holds a Ph.D. in teaching and learning from the University of North Dakota.
“I loved getting to know my professors really well. It was evident they were invested in our learning, cared about us and got to know us as individuals,” Erin said. “For the first time ever I felt empowered to explore, examine, analyze, synthesize conclusions and results—that was never part of my undergrad experience and I’m really grateful for that here.”
The Ingersoll clan might not breathe Dragon fire, but Erin says, “There really is a deep sense of pride in my family for being Dragons.”
Contributed by Joy Crouch
Nothing speaks Minnesota like a summer vacation at the lake. For 58 years, the popular Evergreen Lodge on Big Sand Lake near Park Rapids has been owned and operated by the Dyre family, chock-full of MSUM teaching graduates.
Kay (Kludt) Dyre ’55 (English) smiles as she reminisces about how she and husband Karl ’54 (social studies) purchased the resort in 1957. Kay and Karl met when both attended high school in Detroit Lakes. Years before, Karl worked for a high school principal who owned a resort in Detroit Lakes. He was bitten by “resort fever” and committed to owning a resort one day. The principal encouraged Karl to go into teaching, as he would need a real job with a real salary to pay for a resort.
Both Karl and Kay pursued their teaching degrees at MSUM. Kay always wanted to teach, so attending Moorhead State was a natural fit. She and her two brothers, Gary Kludt ’60 (English) and Steven Kludt ’75 (English), all attended MSUM. Karl’s family was the same. His mother, Nelda ’57 (elementary education) and brother, Keith ’58 (business education) received their degrees from MSUM. Many of the third generation grandchildren also graduated with teaching degrees from the university.
Kay enjoyed doing secretarial work for Professor Emeritus Soc Glasrud, a popular English professor. “I was impressed with how the faculty really got to know their students and watched out for them,” Kay said. “All the professors were like that. It truly was like family.”
Kay continues to recommend MSUM to others. “It’s small enough to get acquainted, but it’s big enough to give you what you need and want out of an education. Obviously, they offer many more courses of study than education, but I think people see MSUM as a ‘teacher’s school.’”
Karl Dyre passed away unexpectedly in 2011, but Kay and her son, Dan, continue to manage Evergreen Lodge. They enjoy their seasonal visitors and the many MSUM graduates who are their neighbors on Big Sand.
Contributed by Harold Sorknes
Harold Sorknes ’68 (health education and physical education) is a history buff, so documenting the teaching careers of his aunts and uncles, all of whom attended Moorhead State Teachers College (MSTC), was a heartfelt project. The Sorknes family touched innumerable lives throughout their teaching careers. Harold was a student manager for the Moorhead State football and basketball teams. He was the last of nine family members to graduate from Moorhead State. Most of the women started their teaching careers doing Normal School Training in Madison, Minn., and completed elementary degrees at MSTC. During Harold’s research, he realized the Sorkness family has touched thousands of lives. He heard many stories of how his aunts impacted numerous young people. “All of these folks definitely left a lasting legacy,” Harold said.
Marie Sorknes ’26 received a job offer to teach at the MSTC Campus School via Western Union telegram from Georgina Lommen, the namesake of the campus education building. It was the beginning of a long and fulfilling career.
Marie taught under five university presidents! She earned a master’s degree in education administration, was an assistant professor of education, and taught in the math department. In a June 1955 letter of recommendation, President Otto Snarr wrote, “I consider Miss Sorknes one of the best teachers on the staff of the Moorhead State Teachers College…She is well-liked by both her associates and the students who come under her instruction.”
Marie died suddenly on October 8, 1970 at age 66. Former President Roland Dille spoke of her at the distinguished alumni awards banquet two days later. He read “The County Clergy” by R.S. Thomas and said the poem “fits…the modesty, the accomplishments, and the life of Marie Sorknes.”
Louise (Sorknes) Engleson ’27 taught for several years but gave up teaching during the Depression because when she married, it was not considered fair to have two jobs in a family. She and her husband moved to England in 1952, where she taught courses for soldiers who hadn’t finished high school.
Helen (Sorknes) Beck ’29 taught in various towns in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at MSU in 1967. Harold took a history class with Helen during summer school in 1966. He writes: “Even though she beat me on every test, and earned an ‘A’, she was always gracious in ‘victory’ and always praised my test scores.”
Corinne (Sorknes) Plotnik ’32 taught until she married in 1936, but didn’t teach full time again until 1956. Harold writes: “In the fall of 1956 there was a late resignation and the (Faribault) superintendent came over to their house to see if she was interested in that position. However, times were different then and the superintendent spoke to Len (Corinne’s husband) first to see if it would be okay if he offered her the position!” She taught in Faribault until her retirement.
Doris (Sorknes) Englund ’32 was the first of the sisters not to complete Normal Training. Her brother Herbert Hub hired her to teach first and second grade in Ruthton Public School. Harold couldn’t document much full-time teaching for her after 1937 but added, “two-income families were not encouraged by schools.”
Valborg (Sorknes) Ielmini ’35 accepted a teaching position at Clearview School southeast of Moorhead, where she also served as the supervising teacher for student teachers from MSTC. In 1944, Vallie married John Ielmini ’39 (physical sciences) another MSTC graduate, who was a math/science teacher at Sleepy Eye High School.
The youngest in the family, Ruth Sorkness ’41, worked in several country schools before completing her associate’s degree in ’44 and her bachelor’s degree in ’50, one of only two students to graduate with honors. She also went on to earn a master’s degree at Bemidji State. She retired from teaching in the Fargo Public Schools in 1986.
Harold Sorknes earned an M.S. in education administration (Northern State University) and an Ed.D. (University of South Dakota). He enjoyed an illustrious career as a teacher, coach and administrator, including stints as athletic director and counselor. He touched the lives of middle school children through college students in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
He retired from full-time teaching at Dakota State University in Madison, S.D., in 2008.
First-generation college student Darlene (Reimers) Haak ’59 (elementary education) had career options after graduating from high school: nursing or teaching. Moorhead was the closest teachers college to her hometown of Alberta, so it was the obvious choice.
“I was to take whatever program I could get out of the quickest and get a job,” Darlene said. She completed the degree in two years and gained lifelong friends along the way. At age 81, she still keeps in touch with her college girlfriends, with their last get-together six years ago. She joined Beta Chi sorority, which she described as “kind of ordinary but leaning toward sports. The party girls lived in Comstock Hall. They would climb out the windows down the fire escape and go to town. They were rowdy and more worldly than we cared to be!”
Daughter Janet Haak ’08 (MFA creative writing) followed in her mother’s footsteps to MSUM after she completed degrees at the other Tri-College schools—a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, both in theatre arts. Janet also taught—theatre, public speaking and film—at Northland Community College before moving to the Fargo-Moorhead area.
She worked in MSUM’s Academic Affairs division before being named director of Study Abroad. The MFA degree was an ideal fit for Janet because of her background in theatre and interest in film and writing. “I had confidence about the faculty and what I would get out of the program.”
While MSUM wasn’t the right fit for Janet out of high school, she was well aware of the university’s famed Straw Hat Players. “There was always this notion that it was a little closer to a professional realm.”
Janet’s daughter and senior theatre arts major Kate Aarness has been dedicated to the MSUM Theatre Department since she started apprenticing with the Straw Hat Players at age 17.
“I attended (MSUM) children’s shows throughout elementary school. I also saw Straw Hat shows quite a bit growing up, so in a lot of ways I knew I’d come to MSUM because the theatre program was high quality,” Kate said. “Craig Ellingson (theatre professor) and I have known each other since before I hit puberty, so we have a unique working relationship. He’s been present for a lot of my growth and has been able to see how far I've come. I definitely appreciate it.”
While Kate is following her mother’s interest in theatre, son Daniel Aarness is a sophomore pursuing a computer science degree. There was no pressure to attend MSUM. “I chose MSUM because it was a perfect fit for me. It is big enough where you can meet loads of new people and get involved in many different things, but small enough where it isn’t intimidating,” Daniel said.
Three generations of this family found MSUM to be an ideal college choice.
This story was first published in Moorhead Magazine, Fall 2015.
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