Founders' Day at Montana State University-Northern is a special graduation week tradition that honors and recognizes individuals who promote the ideals of service and excellence. Founders' Day is a time when alumni, friends, faculty and students rekindle the spirit of campus life and pause to reflect upon the people, places and events that have helped create an environment for lifetime learning and participation.
This year the MSU-Northern Founders' Excellence Awards will be presented to four individuals who have contributed to the growth and development of the campus and who have received outstanding recognition within their own professional fields. They are: Gerald C. Bekker, John K. Facey, Robert L. Kiesling, and Joseph F. McDonald, former faculty member and distinguished educator. They, along with the 50-Year Reunion Class of 1952, will be honored during the Founders' Excellence Dinner Friday in the Student Union Building Cafeteria.
Scobey native Gerald C. Bekker's professional career spanned 32 years of service to Montana State University-Northern as a professor and an administrator. Bekker graduated from Northern Montana College in 1960 with a 2-year certificate in diesel technology. In 1966 he received his bachelor of science degree in teacher education with a double major in industrial arts and business education. He earned a master-of-education degree in 1970 from Oregon State University, followed by a PhD in education with a major in vocational education and minors in educational administration and statistics in 1975.
Bekker began his tenure at Northern in 1966 as a diesel technology instructor and retired in 1997 as director of education and graduate programs. He taught education and vocational teacher education classes, serving as assistant dean of the Vocational-Technical Division and chairman of the Department of Vocational and Industrial-Technical Teacher Education. From 1987 to 1992, he served as chair/director of the Education Department and in 1993 became director of education and graduate programs.
Bekker has been an active member of the Havre Lions Club for 31 years with 23 successive years of perfect attendance. He served as District governor for the 1999-2000 term of District 37-C, and currently is a member of the board of directors for the Montana Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation and the Montana Low Vision Service.
John K. Facey, a 1941 graduate of Northern Montana College and Malta native, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in the Army Air Force in an engineering aviation battalion until he was discharged in January of 1946. He pursued his bachelor's degree in civil engineering at MSU-Bozeman, graduating in 1948.
His engineering career began with the Bureau of Reclamation working on the construction of Canyon Ferry Dam and then with their district office in Great Falls. In 1960, he moved to California to work for the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. In 1968, he began work on the California Aquaduct and then for the Humbold County Public Works Department and the U.S. Forest Service.
Since retiring in 1985, Facey enjoys travel and has participated in 60 Elderhostel programs, most of them in the West. He is known for his extensive involvement and support of Northern, particularly through the NMC Class of '41, and is responsible for organizing several of their reunions. He has never missed a class reunion and is a very active contributor to the Class of '41 newsletter.
Havre native Bob Kiesling, a 1940 graduate of Northern Montana College, was active in student government and was the class president. He used his talents as a cartoonist for the student newspaper, the NoMoCo, and had regular contributions known as "Boboons by Bob."
After graduation, he enrolled in the University of Washington to begin study for a medical career, but his plans changed when he was No. 1 in the draft for Hill County and left for the Army in September of 1942 instead. He completed chemical warfare training with distinction before leaving for overseas duty in November of 1943. One year later, he was critically wounded in France with the loss of both eyes and three fingers on his right hand. After a two-year series of hospitalizations for surgery and rehabilitation, he spent a four-month training session at the Army Blind School in Avon, Connecticut and was honorably discharged at the rank of master sergeant in January of 1947 with a Purple Heart, and several other medals.
After returning to Havre, Kiesling established a Post Office news stand with the assistance of the Havre Rotary Club and he is now their oldest living member. As his business expanded, he began selling books by order. He developed his pottery skills, building his own gas kiln, which was later replaced with an electric kiln. With the help of Branson Stevenson, a notable Great Falls artisan, he designed and built his own potters wheel and made, sold, and displayed many pottery items.
Kiesling became the first chairman of the Red Cross in Havre in 1949 and was the first blood donor for Havre. He became the chairman of the Building Committee of the Methodist Church when that church burned. Kiesling holds life memberships in the Masonic Lodge, the Havre Elks Lodge, the VFW, the American Legion, and the Blinded Veterans Association, which he helped organize while attending the Army Blind School in Connecticut. He was selected for a board position in Region II Child and Family Services, and served more than one term on the Montana State Library for the Blind.
Dr. Joseph F. McDonald is the founder and president of Salish Kootenai College, a tribal college located on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. He was born in St. Ignatius on the Flathead Indian Reservation and is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe. McDonald's post-secondary education was earned at Western Montana College and the University of Montana. While working as a high school principal and assistant superintendent in Ronan from 1968 through 1976, he created the first Native American Studies program in Montana Public Schools. During this time he began laying the foundation for Salish Kootenai College and has served as its president since 1978. He holds honorary doctorate degrees from Gonzaga University in Washington State and Montana State University and was named distinguished alum of Western Montana College.
McDonald received the Montana Ambassadors "Michael P. Malone," Educator of the Year Award of 2000. He delivered The Knapp Memorial Lecture which challenges the National USDA Cooperative Extension to build effective partnerships with American Indian communities through the work of the Land Grant Colleges. In 1999, the Lee Newspapers named him as one of Montana's 100 most influential people of the 1900s and in 1996 he was awarded the Montana Governor's Humanity Award. McDonald will be the graduation speaker at Montana State University-Northern where he coached track and basketball from 1965-1968.
The Founders' Excellence Dinner will begin Friday evening with a social hour at 6 and dinner at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Cafeteria.
Dinner tickets are $15 per person and reservations are required
Please phone your reservations by 5 p.m. today to the MSU-Northern Foundation Office at 265-3711.