Remembering Sarah Nissen

Sarah Nissen

Sarah J. Nissen, Executive Director of Marketing & Creative Services at UND, passed away Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017, in Rochester Methodist Hospital, Rochester, MN. She was 35. Her cancer journey can be found at

Sarah Jean Olsonawski, the daughter of David and Sheryl (Kreps) Olsonawski, was born March 11, 1982, in Crookston, MN. She attended elementary school in Hallock, MN, and attended middle school and high school in Park Rapids, MN, graduating from Park Rapids High School in 2000. While in high school, Sarah was a three-sport athlete who also excelled at music. She continued her education at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and a minor in music. She later went on to earn a master’s degree in communication from North Dakota State University. Sarah spent most of her career in higher education marketing with her most recent role as the Executive Director of Marketing & Creative Services for the University of North Dakota. In 2017, she was awarded the UND Presidential Medal of Honor, making her one of only 20 individuals to receive the award since its inception in 1971.

Sarah truly enjoyed her work and worked hard at her career, but you rarely would hear her talk about it outside of being with her co-workers. If she was talking about someone, it was about her husband and children. Sarah married Mark Nissen on September 3, 2005, in Park Rapids, MN. They lived in Moorhead, MN, until moving to Grand Forks in 2014. Together they had three children who brought much joy to their lives. She always marveled at how smart and beautiful they are (and how loud and funny they could be). Sarah’s favorite time of the week was popcorn and movie night (most Friday nights) with her family.

Sarah loved people and was loved by many. She enjoyed spending free time with her family and friends. She truly could light up a room with her smile and change anyone’s mood with her infectious giggle and laugh. Sarah was a Christian, had strong faith in the Lord and enjoyed attending church with her family. She loved watching and attending Minnesota Vikings games, going to the lake, any quaint boutique or shop, sipping on wine or a bloody mary, shopping, mani-pedis, attending children’s events, water bottles, listening to music while she got ready in the morning, watching reality TV, and singing. She enjoyed most of these things because they included her family and friends.

Sarah is survived by her husband, Mark, and their three children, Cade, Anna and Adelyn, all of Grand Forks; parents, David and Sheryl Olsonawski, Park Rapids, MN; grandmothers, Margene Kreps, Moorhead, MN, and Sophie Olsonawski, Hallock, MN; two sisters, Jana (Ryan) Jordan, Buffalo, MN, and Lisa (Joel) Trosdahl, Pequot Lakes, MN; many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by grandfathers, Wayne Kreps and Anton Olsonawski.

Memorial Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, at Calvary Lutheran Church, 1405 S. 9th St., Grand Forks. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. with a 7 p.m. Prayer Service on Monday, Jan. 1, also at Calvary Lutheran Church.