Earl Strinden leaves legacy of service to state, UND
Former legislator and UND alumni leader passed away on Oct. 18
The date was Oct. 29, 1996. The popular C-SPAN TV program “Washington Journal” was covering the topic of term limits for state-elected legislators. Earl Strinden, the former House majority leader of the North Dakota Legislature, was a call-in guest to the show.
On the program making the case for term limit initiatives launched in states across the nation was Paul Jacob, executive director of an organization called U.S. Term Limits. He used California as an example of the need for term limits.
Then Strinden got his opportunity to speak — and the North Dakotan left little doubt about his position on the issue.
“This is the problem when they try to standardize this across the United State of America — states are different,” he intoned. “We have 640,000 people in North Dakota. That isn’t even a suburb of Los Angeles.
“Their (California’s) legislators are full-time, full-paid (with) retirement programs, offices, perks,” Strinden continued. “We have none of that in North Dakota. And so for them to come in and say, ‘North Dakota, this is what’s good for you,’ is wrong. They don’t know.”
Measure 5, as it was listed on the 1996 North Dakota ballot, lost 53% to 47%.
UND loses champion
On Tuesday, Oct. 18, North Dakota and the University of North Dakota lost a leader and a champion when Strinden, 90, died in Fargo.
“Earl Strinden epitomized both UND and the State of North Dakota,” said UND President Andrew Armacost. “His contributions to our campus were ceaseless. I was thrilled to speak with him shortly after I was appointed as UND’s President and quite a few times since. He was kind and welcoming to me and Kathy. We should all follow his example of leadership and commitment to others.”
Born Nov. 28, 1931, in Litchville, N.D., he was a U.S Marine Corps veteran, a high school teacher, a UND alum, a Grand Forks City Council member, a legislator for 22 years, the executive director of UND Alumni Association for 31 years and the founder and CEO of the UND Foundation — which merged in 2014 to become the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.
Peter Johnson, director of governmental relations and public affairs for UAAF, remembered when he was in his early teens and his father introduced him to Strinden.
“Earl impressed me because his speaking style reminded me of what I thought a great orator of the 1800s would sound like,” he recalled. “I was struck by his command of the language. He enunciated every syllable, and the way he spoke was striking.”
Those speaking skills and the ability to clearly communicate his positions on the issues of the day made Strinden an effective leader in the political world, as well as a key representative of the Grand Forks community and the University. The late U.S President Ronald Reagan once called Strinden “one of the strongest and most respected legislative leaders in the state’s history.”
Gov. Doug Burgum said, “Earl Strinden’s love for North Dakota and UND was legendary, shining through in his dedicated service and exceptional leadership in the Legislature, the UND Alumni Association and the UND Foundation.”
Johnson said Strinden was a statesman — one who thought in terms of North Dakota’s best interests — and an effective builder of coalitions.
“As majority leader, he kept the coffee pot in his office going all the time,” Johnson recalled. “He knew it was a good way to get folks on both sides of the aisle to come visit with him about whatever was on their minds. He encouraged it because he really valued different inputs.”
Strinden’s alumni impact
DeAnna Carlson Zink, UAAF CEO, noted that Strinden was her mentor and a constant source of support since she became head of the alumni group eight years ago. She also credited Strinden for making the association one of the most successful fundraising organizations in North Dakota.
“He worked diligently for years to convince our board of directors and others in the value of starting the foundation alongside the alumni association,” she said. “His vision changed the trajectory of our organization and the University when the foundation was formed in 1978 to act as the fundraising arm of UND.”
In addition, Carlson Zink said Strinden’s passion and dedication made it possible for UAAF to accomplish its mission of supporting UND students, faculty, alumni and the greater Grand Forks community.
“Earl had such a strong belief in the power of a college degree and what it could do to propel students to live the American dream,” she said. “He believed strongly that philanthropy could change lives and help grow the University. Every day he worked to build the University of North Dakota into an institution the entire state could be proud of.”
U.S. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said Strinden left a legacy of service after dedicating decades of his life to bettering his community, state and nation.
“From his role as house Majority leader to his pivotal contributions to UND, Earl’s contributions to the growth and prosperity of Grand Forks and North Dakota will be felt for years to come,” Hoeven said.
U.S Sen. Keven Cramer (R-N.D.) called Strinden a North Dakota political legend and a born leader who sought pragmatic solutions.
“He earned the respect of his colleagues with his wry humor, skill at consensus building, and sincere interest in their lives,” Cramer said. “He influenced the political and public service careers of many people, myself included, and set a very high bar for future generations to follow.”
The personal side
Jody Hodgson, general manager of UND’s Ralph Engelstad Arena, enjoyed a close working relationship with Strinden, whom he said played an instrumental role in helping the late Ralph Engelstad fulfill his vision of building the nation’s premier college hockey facility.
While most concentrate on the professional achievements and public service aspects of Strinden’s career, Hodgson said there was another side of him most didn’t know.
“It is Earl’s love of family that I think about most now that he is gone,” he said. “Earl was so proud of his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He once told me that he felt his greatest accomplishment in life had been the success enjoyed by his children and their families. He was so very proud of all that his children and their families had accomplished.”
Strinden was married to his wife Jan for 68 years. She passed away on May 1 this year.
A memorial service will be held for Earl Strinden at 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24, with visitation starting at 12:30 p.m. at the Atonement Lutheran Church, 4601 S. University Drive, in Fargo. Memorials are suggested to the Jan and Earl Strinden Endowment at UND, The Village Family Service Center or other charity. Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home in Fargo.