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Mike Jacobs: UND pulls off a memorable Homecoming

The week had plenty of ceremony, as well as a big football win on Saturday.

Mike Jacobs
Mike Jacobs
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Homecoming rolled over UND last weekend, bringing large helpings of dreams and nostalgia. It was, I think, a fast-paced event. For example, I walked out of the Alumni Awards dinner at 9 p.m., on Thursday, Sept. 29 – a record, I think. I did get stopped for social interactions on the way out, so it was close to 10 p.m. when I got home, but that would have been the wrap-up time in most years.

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Two of the award winners are personally connected to Suezette and me.

We knew Sarah Vogel, called Sally when we were students together in the late 1960s. She is the first woman elected agriculture commissioner in any state. She’s also the author of a book, “The Farmers Lawyer,” chronicling her efforts to help farmers disadvantaged by federal farm loan programs.

Suezette and I were in the Mark Sanford’s class at Severson High School in Stanley, N.D., on the day that John Kennedy was killed For many years, Sanford was superintendent of schools in Grand Forks and more recently, he’s been an important figure in the Legislature, basically shepherding education funding through the budgeting process. Coincidentally, he’s a candidate for re-election on Nov. 8, just 32 days away.

So that was Thursday – except that the homecoming festivities began a little earlier at our house. We hosted a reception for the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Committee ahead of the awards dinner. I spent all day Friday, Sept. 30, at the group’s semi-annual meeting, always held in Homecoming week.

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Really, my work on the committee began several weeks earlier, when I undertook getting the house in order to receive committee members. It was our first undertaking of that kind. Usually I am the muncher at such receptions rather than the host.

By meeting day I was a mass of bruises and pulled muscles, mostly from pushing books around and cleaning up my “fabric garden containers.” My experiments this year turned out, more or less. The flowers were OK, the greens prolific and I think I got enough dry beans to make a cup or two of soup. The peas failed entirely – as victims of passing deer, I think. Eggplants, peppers and tomatoes did well – as they had in earlier experiments at our place near Gilby, N.D.

The meeting was fascinating. We listened to students and professors describe projects that the committee had funded at our meeting last Homecoming week. The research projects ranged from forensics, which has something to do with crime and corpses, and astrophysics, which has something to do with rocketry. These reports, and especially the enthusiasm of the students, is always absolutely the highlight of Homecoming Week, in my opinion.

There was lots of ceremony, too. We took time off from our meeting to attend the dedication of Nistler Hall, the new home of the College of Business. It’s an astonishing building in several ways, but none more astonishing than the named rooms, 62 of them, I was told. The college appears to have reached into lots of business pockets to finish the building.

I’ve written before about the changes in the layout of the campus. It is grander, more monumental than it was. Some familiar features are gone. Second Avenue North has become a promenade, with views toward downtown and through the campus. The eastern loop of Campus Drive is a large, open space.

Arts and Sciences has a fundraising challenge and a building project in its future. Merrifield Hall, built in 1929 and the center of academic programs on campus for almost a century, is to be modernized. Plans for that were shared with the committee, too, and there was a progressive reception to celebrate the building’s history, with pizza on the first floor, drinks on the second and dessert on the third.

I confess I sneaked out. I was stiff and sore and went home to my massage chair.

Nor did I get up in time for the Homecoming parade, which began at the unseemly hour of 9 a.m. Accounts from friends who were there make it seem a real success. It drew political figures, for example, including Cara Mund, whose campaign got a boost earlier in the week when a Minnesota pollster said her independent campaign had pulled within four percentage points of incumbent Rep. Kelly Armstrong. The two debated on Prairie Public earlier in the week. Not surprisingly the issue between them is reproductive rights. Mund is pro-choice. Armstrong is not.

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Since I wasn’t there I can’t report reliably on other political figures who might have shown up, but there were some.

Then, of course, there was the football game, which the local squad won, and the hockey game, which had an international flair. As usual, the University of Manitoba Bisons came to town and, as usual, they were defeated. In fact they haven’t won in Grand Forks in more than half a century, or so I was told. I confess I haven’t fact-checked it.

So it was a memorable Homecoming, as the crick in my back keeps reminding me.

Mike Jacobs is a former editor and publisher of the Grand Forks Herald.

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