Buildings change while friendships endure
Thoughts on UND and the passing of 50 years from the University’s classes of 1970, 1971
The year was 1971. A fast food burger cost 30 cents. Moviegoers had just met Dirty Harry. Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” dominated the charts. And loudmouthed Archie Bunker was pushing his way into living rooms across America.
That was 50 years ago, and the so-called Golden Graduates of the University of North Dakota say a whole lot has changed – on campus and off – since then.
Dozens of alumni from the classes of 1970, 1971 and thereabouts returned to campus last week for Homecoming, and UND Today stopped by to chat with them at a Saturday morning breakfast held in their honor at the Gorecki Alumni Center.
We asked them just how much campus had changed, what memories came to mind, what has kept UND in their hearts all these years and what advice they might give UND students just starting out. Here is some of what they had to say …
Keith Rodli, ’70: “Broadly speaking, I don’t recognize this campus! There are so many new buildings and changes that I could be on Mars right now, and I would be no more oriented.
“What is significant is that these two guys (fellow 1970 law school grads Gregory Knoke and Glen Gustafson) and others and I have remained really good friends. That’s way more enduring than these buildings or the campus map.
“At UND, a bond forms. They’re my brothers.”
Tin huts for married housing
Gustafson seconded that. The football standout and Legacy Award winner said his law school class started out with about 75 students but was winnowed down to about 35 by graduation. “So, in the three years we went through law school, over half flunked out. If you go to class day after day with the same 35 guys for three years, you become very close. We were very close-knit.”
And even though the campus landscape may have changed over the years, Knoke said the red-brick architecture created a “sameness” that made him feel comfortable and at home.
The three shared hearty laughs when they talked about UND’s old tin huts for married housing and the lack of women altogether when it came to law students.
“The number of females in our class: zero,” Rodli said. “And if you look at the pictures now, it’s sometimes more than 50% female. It was almost unheard of for there to be a female in any law class. (Surprised men would say) ‘there’s a woman in that class.’ And now the women are saying, ‘Hey, there are some guys here.’ ”
Jan and John Lervick earned their undergraduate degrees in 1962 and returned in 1967 so John could attend law school.
“Things have grown an awful lot,” Jan said. “There are so many beautiful buildings, and it kind of feels a little bit more confining going down University Avenue. Things are bigger and closer together.”
“I think it’s emblematic of the growth of the University,” John added. “When we were here in ’62, I think the enrollment was 4,500. And now, it’s 14,000. The campus reflects that, and the best thing about it is the campus is still a compact community.”
The Lervicks both were involved in Greek life, and they recommended today’s students get involved with some sort of organization on campus.
“The connections we made certainly set us on our course or career very well,” Jan said. “We had so many good, fun memories while we were here, and that keeps you connected.”
“UND is still a small school,” John said. “When we were here, you’d know most of the faces on campus, and that’s changed. But involvement is still key. The acquaintances you make are lifetime friendships.”
Memories of the Barn
More thoughts …
Terri Staples, ’70 and ’75: “We drove down University Avenue in the dark the other night, and it is so beautiful. It’s just quite nice. … My parents were going to school here when I was born, so we would always come back as I was growing up. And then I came to school here. It’s just always been a part of me.”
Jean Magnusson, ’73: “We visited the Memorial Union, and it was just beautiful. You could tell it was sparkling-new. And the idea that students can go and have such a choice of restaurants is unique. …
“We stay loyal to University of North Dakota hockey. We used to call that our date night as undergrads, and now we have a grandson who’s really enthused about hockey. I just texted his mom, saying he should come here. He’s only little and loves Chick-fil-A, so that will be enticing for him.”
James Magnusson, ’70, ’74: “The campus looks imposing. The buildings are beautiful, and everything is very, very neat. … I’m used to going back to my hometown, and it seems smaller. But UND seems a lot bigger.”
Another longtime hockey fan was Dwight Crabtree, ’71 and ’89. He was an original member of Huey’s Hoppers, a self-proclaimed group of former high school sports stars who weren’t good enough to make the UND teams. It was kind of like an early version of intramurals. He said one of his favorite memories, though, was watching hockey in the Winter Sports Building.
“When it was 20 below outside, it was 20 below inside the Barn,” he said. “You’d get all those people in there breathing, and frost would form on the dome of the Quonset hut. And then it would start snowing.
“Of course, there was no such thing as a nonsmoking area back then, so if you went to the waiting room to get warmed up, you had to have a gas mask on because of the layer of yellow smoke. I didn’t smoke, so I spent a lot of time freezing between periods.”
Don Foley founded the UND chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha in 1968 while he was attending the University for the first time. He later left and returned to earn his degrees in 1976.
Through the years, he was a chapter advisor to fraternities on the West Coast and at Georgia Tech, where he says he helped integrate his fraternity.
“Back then, the undergrads were afraid of the alumni. They didn’t dare pledge a Black person. They never had one until 2013. So, finally, we got that done.”
“I tell them that if fraternities are going to make it, they’ve got to get involved in diversity. If they don’t, they’re not going to last. Those photo composites need to have some Black kids.”
John “Jack” Widdel Jr., ’71: “When we were here, the aviation department was in the basement of the Law School. It was just getting started then.”
Gene Gruber, ’71: “It’s not even the same place. None of the little buildings are left. The women’s dormitory across from the Gamma Phi house, that was the extreme west end of campus. And look at everything now.”
“I was here for the dedication of the moot courtroom for former Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle up on the fourth floor of the Law School. In his closing remarks, he said, ‘I wouldn’t be what I am today if not for this place.’
“And I’ve thought that many times for myself. I feel the same way. He was a farm boy; I was a farm boy from the southwest corner of the state. I didn’t know a University from a rutabaga.”