University Letter

UND's faculty and staff newsletter

Remembering Daniel Rylance

Daniel Frederick Rylance, former curator for UND Special Collections, associate professor of history and state representative, born in Fargo, N.D., on June 10, 1942, died Nov. 28, in Oshkosh, Wisc.

Dan was the first-born child of Donald Frederick and Laura Mae (Gumb) Rylance. He graduated from Shanley High School, in Fargo, with the distinction of having the most recorded disciplinary actions in the school’s history. Unabashed by his past misdeeds, he jovially pursued academic degrees in history from St. John’s University, (B.A.) and the University of North Dakota (M.A) before working on his doctorate at the University of Missouri. Unbeknownst to many of his closest friends, he studied to be a priest for two years; often quipping that he would have become a priest if only celibacy had NOT been a requirement. Instead, his first profession centered on regional history. For 22 years, he worked at UND as an archivist and Associate Professor of History. His knowledge of his home state’s history – conveyed in publications, lectures, and various media platforms – garnered him the moniker “Mr. North Dakota.”

Dan’s research interests comingled with his lifelong zest for civic responsibility and community development. His great admiration for North Dakota’s Progressive Era Governor William Langer and Populist Senator Quentin Burdick led to his successful campaign for state legislature. Securing a sizable student vote, he went on to chair the State and Federal Government Committee. He introduced bills supporting dairy farmers and open meeting laws and championed the Equal Rights Amendment. He served on numerous policy-making committees, advocating for the creation of UND’s Indians into Medicine Program (INMED) and other programs that celebrated the cultural traditions of indigenous peoples. Increasingly solicited for his political insights, he left academia to become the editorial page editor for The Grand Forks Herald, interviewing Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone and then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. When his wife’s career relocated the family to the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin, Dan became a tireless worker supporting local and state political candidates and legislative bills. For several years, he co-hosted the locally televised program “Eye on Oshkosh” with Cheryl Hentz, wrote guest editorials for a local newspaper, and assisted his neighborhood elementary school in establishing its own newspaper, the Webster Wave.

Dan loved all games and sports. He was innately good at both; bestowed with natural ability coupled with a highly competitive nature, he won far more than his fair share. His children remember him as a playful, loving, and mischievous father. He loved teasing those he loved. That included his many friends, who were very important to him. He loved to socialize, have extended conversations, and flirt with strangers. Even when visiting a big city like Chicago, he would stop for small talk with whomever walked by, which few do in the Windy City, especially Chicagoans.

Dan helped raise four children, nine grandchildren, five foreign exchange students, and too many cats to count. Dan had a passion for travel, which he inculcated into all his children. Dan, Billie Jo, and their children went on to live around the world: Spain, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ecuador, Sweden, China, England, and Belgium. One child remained abroad while others brought wives home from abroad. Everywhere he went he admired the food, the beverages, the cultures and the beauty of the locales. He always daydreamed of buying a house everywhere he visited. He dreamed of traveling more extensively in southeast Asia, and visiting Africa and Australia. His final months were spent trippin’; from his hospice bed, he revisited places he had been and journeyed to new places. In the footsteps of his ancestors, the destinations were often positioned to the West.

Dan wishes to be remembered just as the man he was: playful, kind, charming, and competitive. With that in mind, Dan’s Celebration of Life Ceremony will be held at a certain family-friendly Oshkosh watering hole around his 82nd birthday, the month of June in the year of our lord, 2024. He invites those who wish to share stories to do so unrestricted by age, time limits, and social mores.

He prefers that anyone wishing to donate memorials consider supporting Aspera Hospice, Bella Vista or whatever organization/s are personally significant.