By Robert Lucke
Trygve Magelssen is totally awesome, and yet few have ever heard of him around the community. But Call him by his nickname, "Spike," and almost everyone knows him.
He has been especially good for Montana State University-Northern, where he is a leader on campus. He has been since he got there in the spring of 1998.
Born in Washington state, Magelssen was an Air Force brat who ended up at Glasgow Air Force Base in Montana. He and his family moved to Fort Peck and he graduated from Glasgow High School.
After high school he joined the Navy for four years and worked in Seattle and Belgrade before moving to Havre, where his mother was then living with his two brothers.
Magelssen worked for Tempo Electric for 11 years and while there got his master's electronics license. It was after working there and helping his brother get started in business that he realized he should be going back to school.
While telling his story he forgot that he had in the meantime gotten an aviation maintenance certificate at Helena Vo-Tech.
"It's kind of funny," he said. "Alex Capdeville (Northern's chancellor and former head of the vo-tech) signed my vo-tech certificate and now he will be signing my bachelor's degree certificate."
"You know we really got some good news this morning," he added. "The I Triple E just got a $5,000 grant for the Center of Excellence. We can be linked up with schools all over the world now."
To translate, the I Triple E stands for the Institute of Electrical Electronic Engineers, and Northern's Center of Excellence is a place where students can do research and specialized studies and projects. Among other things, these groups allow MSU-Northern to invite speakers here who would normally not be on this campus.
Magelssen is the station manager for Northern's FM station KNMC, has been very involved with the student newspaper, served a term on the student Senate, and has been on Northern's Legislative Committee. There are few aspects of student life he has not been involved with.
"It all started when I got to school. Dr. Hesske asked me to write for the school paper. I thought about it and decided that if a guy like him would ask me, I should honor the request," Magelssen said. "I started asking questions and the more questions I asked, the more I disagreed with. Then (student reporters) Rob Everingham and Evan Dorrance started working with me and that was how my involvement started."
Magelssen's dream was always to get the campus radio station up and running after several years off the air. The only radio on campus was an NPR feed out of Billings.
Committees had been formed to keep the station going but most of the people had left, and wherever Magelssen turned, folks told him it would be impossible to get the station up and running again.
"Finally there was a turning point when Robert Bentz, the ITS (Information Technology Services) director on campus, asked me what the situation was about the radio station and what he could do to help. That was the first time anyone had offered to help. In fact I had given up."
So with a lot of pushing, pulling, twisting and turning, finally the station was up and running again with Magelssen as the station manager. He is now working on getting a core group of people in place to continue to run the station after he is gone. Also in the works are plans to connect their antenna onto the Triangle Telephone tower on Legion Hill and to fully automate the system. Magelssesn talks about a radio production class too. There is already funding in place for that.
He graduates in May. In his last four years at Northern he has seen the best along with the worst about the school. First the worst.
"That would be one word, apathy. People are afraid to step out of their comfort zones. Even the faculty is afraid of that. No one participates. They are afraid of the administration. That is our worst problem. That and money."
The best of Northern is easier for Magelssen to talk about.
"That is Northern pride. I know I am proud to be a student from here. I think if the alumni and the community could just participate a little more, we would see great things from this campus," he said. "But I am shortchanging us. There are great things happening here right now."
As to his plans for next year, who knows?
"I don't know what I will be doing. Maybe have a job somewhere. I know the good Lord has something planned for me and I know it will be something good," he said, smiling.
One last question. How did he get the nickname Spike?
"Oh, my mother gave me that nickname. She said she wanted a kid who was as tough as nails."