Sign of legends

Ambassadors and longtime servants to UND alumni, Earl and Jan Strinden, get street named in their honor

Jan and Earl Strinden

Jan Strinden helps her husband, Earl, unveil a new street sign at the corner of University Avenue and Strinden Road (formerly a section of Stanford Road). The road was renamed in the couple’s honor for their years of dedication to the alumni of UND. Photo by Richard Larson.

How do you get to Strinden Road?

As of Thursday, it runs north-south through the heart of the University of North Dakota campus, off University Avenue and right next to the Gorecki Alumni Center — this, according to Google maps.

But to UND alumni, friends and family of Earl and Jan Strinden, it takes “dedication.”

That was the word on the street, almost literally, at a ceremony to change a former section of Stanford Road, south of University Avenue, to “Strinden Road” in honor of Earl, who served the University’s Alumni Association and Foundation for 31 years, 26 of those as the organization’s leader; and his wife, Jan, who quietly did as much behind the scenes.

“It is appropriate that we are calling this a dedication, because dedicated is what Earl and Jan have been to this great University,” said current UND Alumni Association & Foundation CEO DeAnna Carlson Zink, who intimated for the crowd the mentorship that Earl has provided her over the past 30 years, from the time she was a student at UND.

“He and Jan together changed the face of philanthropy for this campus,” Carlson Zink continued. “If you walk these paths, you will see what he made happen and the dreams that he had for this University.”

‘Pretty special’ place

Earl Strinden officially retired from his post as executive vice president in 2000, but even today, some 17 years later, he is still regarded as one of the school’s greatest ambassadors. In his time at UND, he built strong friendships with some of the University’s biggest donors: men and women whose names grace campus buildings and academic programs.  These are people such as Ken Hyslop, Warren Hannah, Ralph and Betty Engelstad, and Grace and Lloyd Stone.

But when he stands before a large crowd and talks about his legacy at UND, as he did on Thursday, Earl talks in terms of “we” and not “I.”

He reminds people of the roots of the Alumni Association, started by the first eight graduates of UND in 1889. He also attributes alumni support for and allegiance to UND to the men and women that preceded him, worked with him and succeeded him at the Alumni Association and Foundation.

“The University of North Dakota is pretty special — we all agree with that,” Earl said. “We are part of something that is very noble, and that is the ongoing building of the University of North Dakota.”

Jan and Earl Strinden and family

Jan and Earl Strinden are surrounded by their extended family and friends at the corner of University Avenue and Strinden Road. Photo by Richard Larson.

Service beyond UND

Just before Earl and Jan pulled the strings to unveil their new road sign, they gave an example of their stage presence — with impeccable comedic timing some six decades in the making — when they each addressed the audience.

“Earl and I have had 45 wonderful years together, and that’s not bad out of 63,” Jan deadpanned, bringing the crowd to uproarious laughter and applause.

Not to be outdone, Earl nudged his wife aside and grabbed the mic, “not only that … but she steals my line.” His words elicited even more laughter.

Carlson Zink not only talked about Earl’s service to the University but also to the city of Grand Forks and the state of North Dakota. He served for 22 years in the North Dakota House of Representatives, much of that time as the chamber’s majority leader.

In 1988, when then President of the United States Ronald Reagan visited UND, the late commander in chief reserved a line in his speech for Earl.

“He’s recognized as one of the strongest and most respected legislative leaders in the state’s history,” Reagan said.

On Thursday, Carlson Zink said that line still resonates today.

Before the unveiling, UND President Mark Kennedy said he was interested to know what color the sign would be.

“Because we all know that Earl and Jan bleed green … but I also have been told regularly that everything Earl touches turns to gold,” Kennedy said.

Much of that gold has been to the benefit of UND, he added.

“This University is immeasurably better off today because of the things that have come from (Earl’s) hard work and dedication, and Jan’s as well,” Kennedy said.