Fond farewells for Founders Day

UND extends its thanks to 100 retired and retiring employees, including five prominent faculty who represent over 140 years of combined service

Al Palmer, Sharon Wilsnack, Lana Rakow and Dan Rice

UND faculty retirees: Al Palmer, Sharon Wilsnack, Lana Rakow, Dan Rice and Kim Fink (pictured below). Photo illustration by Richard Larson.

They trace their roots from California to the Heartland. Their careers have taken them across the nation and all over the globe. They have impacted their professions and brought recognition to the University of North Dakota.

Today, the University extends its thanks to 100 retired and retiring members of the UND community, all of whom will be honored at tonight’s annual Founders Day banquet. Another 39 are being recognized for 25 years of service.

Among the retired and retiring are nearly three dozen members of the faculty. UND Today looks at five of them who represent over 140 years of combined service: Dan Rice, dean emeritus of the College of Education and Human Development; Sharon Wilsnack, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science; Lana Rakow, professor emerita of communication; Al Palmer, director of unmanned aircraft systems; and Kim Fink, professor emeritus of art and design.

Dan Rice

Daniel Rice started out in 1986 as something of a commuter. As director of the UND Graduate Center in Bismarck and also a teacher on the Grand Forks campus, he spent a lot of time in UND airplanes flying between the two communities. President Tom Clifford was often a fellow passenger, and Rice got to know him well. After Clifford’s retirement, Rice wrote a history of his presidency.

For nine years, Rice headed UND’s Office of Instructional Development. He created the Alice T. Clark Mentorship (honoring the former vice president for academic affairs), a yearlong orientation for new faculty members. “It’s turned out to be a wonderful program,” he said.

From 2000 to 2012, Rice served as dean of the College of Education and Human Development. Among his accomplishments was leading the renovation and expansion of the nearly half-century-old Education Building, UND’s first LEED-certified project.

Sharon Wilsnack

Sharon Wilsnack is known internationally for her studies of women and alcohol. The National Institutes of Health has funded this research almost continuously since 1980.

Wilsnack started out as a music major at Kansas State University but discovered psychology through an Honors Program class. She became interested in alcohol studies while pursuing master’s and doctoral degree studies at Harvard, where she met her husband, Richard. Their widely respected teachers were influential. “We really reaped the benefits of that,” she said. “We have always felt very fortunate to have been there during that time.”

The Wilsnacks joined the UND faculty in 1978. Their research has gained attention worldwide and now includes a collaborative project on gender and alcohol involving researchers from more than 40 nations. Sharon Wilsnack was named a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor in 1989,

Lana Rakow

Lana Rakow’s upbringing in a small North Dakota town instilled in her a strong interest in the importance of community. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UND and then worked in news and community relations for insurance companies in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Rakow taught at Franklin College and earned her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her time there was a springboard to what would become a productive publishing career, including four books on feminist theory, technology and community. She served as a faculty member and administrator at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside before joining the UND communication faculty in 1994.

In 2004, Rakow founded UND’s Center for Community Engagement, a program approved by the State Board of Higher Education with a mission to link academic resources with community needs. This led to UND receiving the prestigious “Community Engagement” designation from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

“I always looked for ways to connect my own students to the community,” Rakow said. “I knew service learning was not only an effective teaching method but also one of the linchpins in a model of a university where academic knowledge is put at the service of society at large.”

Alan Palmer

Alan Palmer put his aviation dream into action over four decades ago. A member of the U.S. Air Force, he had just gotten his re-enlistment bonus. With his wife, he was watching planes at the Grand Forks Airport. “I said, ‘I’m going to take my 900 bucks and learn how to fly,’” he recounted. “That was in 1976. I had to work during the daytime, so I took the night class, and John Odegard was the professor.”

Palmer got his private pilot’s license and commercial license, and also earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical studies from UND. He would also go on to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Air War College. Palmer left active duty in 1981 to join UND Aerospace full time. He also joined the North Dakota Air National Guard, retiring in 2010 as its chief of staff with the rank of brigadier general.

Palmer served as UND’s director of flight operations, managing one of the largest flight training programs in the nation. He then became director of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center for Education, Research and Training, and also led the governor’s Airspace Integration Team that achieved the selection of North Dakota as one of six national UAS test sites.

Palmer has accumulated nearly 10,000 hours of flying time and type ratings for six aircraft. “I’ve been blessed with a great career,” he said. “I did everything I wanted to do in aviation, except go into space.”

Kim Fink

Kim Fink, a professor emeritus of art & design who is retiring after 18 years at UND, works on a French Brisset Star Wheel Lithography Press that he required and restored at the University. Photo by Jackie Lorentz/University of North Dakota

Kim Fink

A native of California, Kim Fink studied in Oregon, Pennsylvania and Italy. He taught in Oregon, California, Rhode Island and New York before joining the UND art faculty in 1999. He taught printmaking and also served as the department’s M.F.A. adviser.

Fink made it a priority to create opportunities for his students to study abroad, interact with well-known artists, and utilize special equipment, including an 1800s-vintage French Brisset Star Wheel Lithography Press he acquired and restored. It is one of just a handful of such presses in the United States.

Fink collaborated with UND faculty member Lucy Ganje and Philadelphia artist Daniel Heyman to create a portfolio of 12 woodcut portraits and text panels to portray American Indians as contemporary people dealing with contemporary problems.

Faculty and department awards

The Founders Day celebration and banquet also includes the annual recognition of individual faculty and academic departments for outstanding teaching, research or creative activity, and service.  This year’s honorees are:

Susan Ellis-Felege, assistant professor of biology, the UND Foundation/McDermott Faculty Award for Individual Excellence in Teaching

Robert Wood, associate professor of political science and public administration, the UND Foundation/Lydia and Arthur Saiki Faculty Award for Individual Excellence in Teaching

Anne Mullins, assistant professor of law, the UND Foundation/Thomas J. Clifford Faculty Award for Graduate or Professional Teaching Excellence

Fred Remer, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, the UND Foundation/Karleen Home Rosaaen Award for Excellence in Academic Advising; Melissa Gjellstad, associate professor of languages, the UND Foundation/Thomas J. Clifford Faculty Achievement Award for Outstanding Faculty Development and Service

Othman Ghribi, professor of biomedical sciences, School of Medicine and Health Sciences; the UND Foundation/Thomas J. Clifford Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Research

Gretchen Mullendore, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, the UND Foundation/B.C. Gamble Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research or Creative Activity, and Service

Christine Harsell, clinical instructor, Family Nurse Practitioner Program; Maridee Shogren, director, Doctor of Nursing Practice Program; Jacqueline Devine-Roberts, clinical assistant professor, Family Nurse Practitioner Program; Thomasine Heitkamp, professor of social work; Angela Muhs, assistant professor of social work; and Joseph Miller, associate professor of psychology, all for the UND Award for Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Research or Creative Work

Department of Psychology, the UND Foundation/Thomas J. Clifford Award for Departmental Excellence in Teaching

Department of Chemistry, the UND Award for Departmental Excellence in Research

Department of Atmospheric Sciences, the UND Award for Departmental Excellence in Service

By UND Today Staff Writer Richard Larson and compiled from profiles written by Brenda Haugen for the 2017 Founders Day banquet program