Across MSU Moorhead’s campus, Dr. Anne Blackhurst’s red blazers have become as recognizable as Scorch the Dragon himself. Over the past nine years, President Blackhurst has led the university through unprecedented challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, helped MSUM grow both financially and culturally, and helped identify the three core values that define Dragons.
As President Blackhurst nears her retirement, the Dragon Family wants to take a moment to acknowledge all of the work she’s done, and all of the grit, heart, and humility she has shown along the way. As a small surprise, we gathered some of President Blackhurst’s nearest and dearest colleagues from MSUM and beyond to talk about everything President Blackhurst has accomplished at MSUM.
Serving with Grit
In our core values, we define grit as “resourcefulness, the courage to do what’s right, and big dreams.” President Blackhurst possesses these traits in no short supply. Jan Mahoney, former MSUM Vice President of Finance and Administration and current president of the MSUM Foundation board, has worked with President Blackhurst extensively over the years.
Grit can come in many forms. It can be toiling away for weeks on end to create a strong strategic plan, or it can be simpler (and more fun), like Ok-Hee Lee, the Dean of the College of Education and Human Services mentioned.
“She wears red every single day without fail. And I think that shows her grit too,” Lee said.
And President Blackhurst’s commitment to crimson is more than just a fashion statement–a blazer of hers was even auctioned off at the 2023 Red Flame Gala, where the proceeds went to students’ scholarships.
President Anne's Red Blazer is auctioned off at the MSUM Foundation's Red Flame Gala
President Blackhurst is not one to shy away from the hard work that comes with being the leader of an institution like MSUM. Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson even said that President Blackhurst is exactly who she thinks of when she thinks of grit.
“She grinds through it all and has such grace while she's doing it,” Mayor Carlson said.
Serving with Humility
The grace that President Blackhurst has shown in her career exemplifies MSUM’s second core value: humility. While being a president of a university is a very visible position, President Blackhurst is known around the school and larger community as someone who would rather build others up than take the spotlight herself. MSUM’s Associate Vice President of Marketing Kirsten Jensen spoke to President Blackhurst’s humility, saying “Anne lives ‘humility’ because she never wants to really be the center of attention."
President Anne interacts with community members during spring commencement
As she retires, President Blackhurst will leave behind a legacy of humility thanks to her tireless efforts to uplift those around her.
“She really sees her job as using her voice to lift up the things that people are doing well and to engage the campus and the community,” said Jensen.
The relationships that President Blackhurst has formed during her career at MSUM also speak to her humility.
“In Anne's professional life, she displayed a lot of passion,” Mahoney said. “Beginning with her inauguration, she really desired to become involved in the city, with the presidents across the river and down the street. She made great relationships with those people.”
Serving with Heart
It’s not just the fierceness with which she meets the daily grind or the humility she displays that sets President Blackhurst apart, but the reason she does it: her heart.
Whether it’s helping students lug totes up the stairs on move-in day or running laps to raise money, everything President Blackhurst has done during her tenure at MSUM has been done to help others. Lee summed it up well:
President Blackhurst has led MSUM with heart, and as her final semester as president draws to a close, we feel our own hearts ache a little bit. After all, the MSUM Dragons have been “Anne Fans” for nearly a decade. We are happy she’ll be able to take time to be with family or to enjoy a leisurely morning run, but we will miss all the grit, humility, and heart she brought to MSUM.
From all of us here at MSUM: Thank you, President Anne.
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