Present at the creation

This was when it all began, generations of Nistler College grads will say when they look back on Friday’s groundbreaking

In the photo from Oct. 2, 1883, a crowd of about 100 gathers on the North Dakota prairie near Grand Forks. The photo shows the laying of the cornerstone of Main Hall, UND’s first building.

And all who see the photo likely ask themselves, “What would it have been like to have been there?”

This being 2020, there’s no way of answering that question, of course. But there certainly are ways of experiencing the birth of something wonderful and new. One such chance came around last week; and if you take a look at the video above, you’ll enjoy that opportunity in full.

That’s because the video shows the groundbreaking of UND’s new Nistler College of Business & Public Administration building.

And if you think of the thousands of students who’ll populate that soon-to-be-built building over the decades to come, gathering there to study before graduating to lead organizations across North Dakota and beyond, you’ll see that prairie beginnings on the UND campus near Grand Forks retain their ability to inspire.

“During the fundraising for this project, we used the tagline, ‘We bring the world to our students and our students to the world,’” said DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, at the groundbreaking.

“Now, finally, we get to stand on the grounds where our students will meet the world, and lives will be changed forever. …

“Connected by skywalks to the Chester Fritz Library and Merrifield Hall, the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration connects an amazing past to an exciting future,” Carlson Zink continued.

“It will truly transform this beautiful campus.”

DeAnna Carlson Zink (third from left), CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, leads UND officials and guests in the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration on Oct. 9. YouTube screenshot.

The building and college are named for donors Werner and Colleen Nistler, who donated the lead gift toward construction of a new College of Business & Public Administration building on campus.

The new building, part of a $70 million project to replace the aging Gamble Hall, resulted from a remarkable partnership of donors, the State Legislature, the City of Grand Forks, and others. The State Legislature agreed to create a $20 million matching fund. Later, the Grand Forks Growth Fund approved a $1.3 million grant after the State Board of Higher Education approved a cost-free, 50-year lease to the City of Grand Forks for the creation of a workforce development center in the building.

Among the speakers at the groundbreaking was Brandon Bochenski, a Nistler College graduate and the mayor of Grand Forks. “The city is very happy to be a part of this investment,” Bochenski said.

The new workforce development center in the building is sure to be well-used by not only Grand Forks city workers and interns, but also the public. “It’s a great opportunity for both professional development and retention of talent,” Bochenski said. “I’m just super excited … and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the building looks like when it’s all finished. I’m sure it will be as beautiful as it is on paper.”

UND President Andy Armacost agreed, saying, “I have high hopes for this building and what it represents.” Importantly, that means not just the building’s walls, but what happens inside those walls, Armacost said.

“It’s the programs and the people that make the magic happen,” he said.

“Let’s bring this magic to campus. Let’s connect the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration to the rest the campus as a catalyst for excellence as we continue to create Leaders in Action.”

Werner Nistler delivers remarks to commemorate the Nistler College groundbreaking. YouTube screenshot.

In a videotaped statement for the groundbreaking, Werner Nistler himself connected the building to its roots on the North Dakota landscape.

“Colleen and my gift is driven by our desire to give back to this outstanding University and to the world’s collective future, and to pay it forward,” he said.

“Our gift is also a tribute to our parents and families for their hard work and perseverance on the western North Dakota prairie, and who inspired us to attend college. … We are grateful for the opportunity to give to such a worthy cause.”

Like Werner Nistler, North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford is a UND business graduate; and also like Nistler, Sanford says he remains deeply grateful to the university. “It was the invaluable lessons that I learned from the exceptional professors in Gamble Hall and across the campus that truly equipped me with the business values, financial acumen and entrepreneurial drive necessary to compete and succeed,” Sanford said about the groundbreaking.

And once the new building is completed, he said, “I’m confident that this nurturing and innovative environment will produce the next generation of leaders to carry on that ‘UND Proud’ tradition.”

Once the speeches ended at the groundbreaking, it was time for the ceremonial shoveling to begin. “So this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the official groundbreaking for the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration,” Carlson Zink said.

“Being a farm girl, I know there’s nothing like North Dakota dirt — except for University of North Dakota dirt. So ladies and gentlemen, let’s throw some dirt!”

The group members did just that. Then they cheered, thrilled to be present at the start of something big.