Catching up with friends

UND’s annual Thanksgiving dinner for retirees draws about 250 for feast and fellowship

annual UND Thanksgiving dinner for retirees

UND President Mark Kennedy visits with attendees of the annual Thanksgiving dinner for retirees event, held recently in the Memorial Union Ballroom. Pictured left to right, are Kay Roch, Larry Roch, Richard Olson and Jan Olson. Special to UND Today by Richard Larson.

It was all smiles and a lot of laughter as UND retirees caught up with old friends and heard about what’s happening at UND. A traditional Thanksgiving meal was the gravy on top.

UND’s annual Thanksgiving dinner for retirees took place Nov. 6, and drew about 250 former members of the University community.

“I come to keep acquainted with old friends,” said Hanzy Horn, former carpenter and housing maintenance specialist who retired in 1976. “I enjoy knowing what’s going on at UND.”

“I have a grandson in mechanical engineering at UND,” said Evi Fox, who retired from CILT in 2004 and likes to catch up on UND happenings. “I enjoy seeing everyone.”

“This is a good way to keep in touch,” said Paul Wright, professor emeritus of psychology, who retired in 1996. “This is a big draw. I get to see a lot of people that I don’t see anywhere else.”

And, said everyone, the food was outstanding. UND Catering served up a traditional Thanksgiving meal including lefse, a Scandinavian delicacy which passed the taste-test of even the most demanding palates.

“It’s so good to see everyone again!” said catering supervisor Karen Bushaw as she and her staff made their way around the tables.

annual Thanksgiving dinner for retirees 2017

The annual dinner event, one of UND’s longstanding traditions, began in the 1970s during the Tom Clifford presidency. It’s a way to keep retirees engaged with the University, and to thank them for contributions to UND’s success. Pictured above left to right are Evi Fox, Richard Fox, Hanzy Horn and Paul Wright. Special to UND Today by Richard Larson.

Longstanding tradition

The event, one of UND’s longstanding traditions, began in the 1970s during the Tom Clifford presidency. It’s a way to keep retirees engaged with the University, and to thank them for contributions to UND’s success, said Fred Wittmann, director of ceremonies and University events.

“It would have been very much like President Clifford to have understood the value of having UND retirees living in the Greater Grand Forks and surrounding communities to maintain some direct connection to the campus,” said Wittmann.

“Participants seem to primarily come to reconnect with one another, but for the past six to seven years, we’ve added a short program so guests can hear directly from the president,” said Wittmann. “It’s popular with retirees.”

President Kennedy continued the tradition as he and First Lady Debbie Kennedy mingled during the social, welcomed retirees, talked about what’s happening at UND, and circulated after the dinner.

“This is our opportunity to say thank you for all you’ve done for the University,” said Kennedy as he addressed the guests.

“There have been a lot of changes in higher education,” he continued. “Sixty percent of high school graduates will work at jobs that are not yet invented. Our challenge is to prepare students for that. Our strategic plan is designed to do that.”

Another way UND is moving forward is through branding and its Leaders in Action message, which was developed through surveys and focus groups within the University community, Greater Grand Forks, and with prospective students.

“We asked people what words came to mind when they thought of UND,” Kennedy said. “And quality education almost matched hockey!

“A previous president once said he wanted a university that the hockey team could be proud of,” continued Kennedy. “We are doing well.”

Kennedy said that “beautiful campus” scored almost as high as “cold weather” in the survey.

“Prospective students decide within seven minutes if they want to attend a university,” Kennedy said, adding that UND is “buffing up” the campus and making other improvements.

Other words that people associate with UND included “doers,” “rugged,” and “making an impact,” Kennedy said, adding that UND’s new tagline, Leaders in Action, rings true and describes what makes UND special.

“We appreciate all you’ve done to make UND special,” said Kennedy. “Thank you.”