By Tim Leeds 

Golden Grads praise their alma mater

 

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern Golden Graduates tour the university in The Golden Goose. This year, 15 Golden Grads, people who graduated from the university while it was still Northern Montana College at least 50 years ago, came to graduation, the largest group since the 1990s.

A group of former students returned to Montana State University-Northern over the weekend to celebrate a special anniversary and to praise the school they attended while it was Northern Montana College.

A group of 15 students who graduated from Northern at least 50 years earlier - Golden Graduates - were honored Saturday during the university's graduation ceremony.

The group had a luncheon Friday, followed by a tour of the campus, and a dinner that night before Saturday's graduation.

And the Golden Grads made comments with a common theme during Friday's luncheon - without Northern, they wouldn't be where they are today.

"They do give you confidence, they give you skills you didn't have," Violet Vender Tharp, class of '69, said. "(The university) sees that you don't get lost in the system."

Northern Alumni Foundation Director Jim Bennett welcomed the Golden Grads, saying it was the largest group to come to a Northern graduation since the 1990s - the Class of 1941, he said.

He added that it was great the Golden Grads had a chance to rekindle their relationship with the university.

"I know the campus looks a little different, but I hope you see the improvements," he said.

Chancellor Greg Kegel said he started at Northern in 1972.

"I never left," he said, adding, "We have made a lot of changes. I want to give a shout out to the foundation. They are making a lot of things happen."

Allan Roush of the Class of '59 said he came to Northern in 1955 - he started in a two-year program and Northern started a four-year program while he was a student.

His first quarter, tuition was $37.50, he said, and his first teaching job, at Malta, he made $4,000 a year.

Later, Roush said, he earned his master's at Greeley, Colorado, and then he was contacted by Northern's president, Joseph Crowley, and offered a job teaching there.

"Some of these people were my students," he said, "including that character (Kegel) over there."

When a Golden Grad asked Roush if Kegel was a good student, he replied, "I'm not going into that."

Frank Peterson said that after he graduated from Northern, he began a long career teaching junior high and coaching in Havre, while his wife, Connie, became a teacher and the first girls basketball coach at Havre High School.


"I was teaching kids of professors at Northern," he added.

"Northern's meant a lot to me," Peterson said.

Charlene (Blevins) Moen, Class of '69, said she taught at a number of schools after graduating from Northern and the university holds a special place for her.

"There was nothing like the third-floor quad room (of Donaldson Hall) with three other girls," she said.

"It will always be Northern Montana College to me," Moen added.

Judy Miller Bricker, Class of '69, said she graduated from Northern she taught and coached, including along with Connie Peterson, then stopped to raise a family.

She went back to work in a couple of jobs before she heard Northern's Alumni Association was hiring, and started working there.

She said she found out some interesting things about other graduates of Northern, like George Staudacher.

Staudacher was part of the team with recently created Intel that, in 1970, developed the dynamic random access memory chip that revolutionized computers.

He attended Northern in 1957.

Bricker said she also found out that the doctor who performed the first-ever hand transplant, Harold Kleiner, also was a Northern student.

Kleiner, who grew up on a homestead ranch near Sunburst, attended Northern before graduating from the University of Michigan in 1943 and receiving his Doctor of Medicine Degree from Temple University School of Medicine in 1946.

Bricker said that once she found out, she contacted his office.

"He came up the next year for graduation," she said.

Many of the Golden Grads talked about Northern attracting a different kind of student, hard-working people from rural Montana.

"They come with a work ethic and background I don't think other students have," Bricker said, "It's remarkable."

Bricker, and others, talked about the smaller campus and the kind of teachers at the school - teachers who won't allow the students to fail.

"Northern gave me opportunity, it was a safe place for me to try things," Bricker said. "... I don't think they have that at bigger schools.

" ... You know their names and they know you," she added. "And they fight you tooth and nail to get you a degree."

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

 

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