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Alumni Honors Banquet recognizes seven outstanding alums

Accomplished alumni, friends of UND gather for ceremony hosted by UND Alumni Association & Foundation

Alumni Honors Banquet awards
Image courtesy of UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

Seven UND alumni were recognized during the UND Alumni Association & Foundation’s annual Alumni Honors Banquet on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the Alerus Center.

Five of those seven received the Sioux Award for Distinguished Achievement & Leadership, the highest award given by the UNDAAF.

Since 1962, the award has been presented to community leaders, accomplished professionals and devoted alumni who have dedicated their lives to serving others.

The Young Alumni Achievement award, established in 2002, recognizes recent graduates of UND who have made an impact since their time as students.

Sioux Awards for Distinguished Achievement & Leadership were given to the following recipients:

Young Alumni Achievement Awards were given to the following recipients:


Dr. Robert Boyd

Bob BoydDr. Robert Boyd, ’74, ’79, who spent much of his career at UND in various student-focused roles, has nominated people for the UND Alumni Association & Foundation’s highest honor. He never expected he would be chosen to receive a Sioux Award for Distinguished Achievement & Leadership himself.

Boyd, who long served as Dean of Continuing Education and Vice President for Student and Outreach Services, was driving when he received a call from DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UNDAAF about his selection. He says he called her back because he feared that the shock of the moment had prevented him from expressing his full appreciation.

“I’m just very humbled,” said Boyd. “I must tell you very honestly I can think of several names that would be more deserving and some I’ve even nominated, but I’m just very appreciative and tremendously honored by it.”

Dubbed “Mr. UND” by President Robert Kelley – one of four presidents he worked with during a 32-year UND career – Boyd was widely known for his fierce passion for UND and his advocacy for students.

Whether bringing technology to bear on higher education, creating opportunities for part-time students, focusing on student health and wellness, advocating on behalf of minority students, or improving student financial know-how, Boyd’s tenure saw great improvements in the student experience on the Grand Forks campus and beyond.

An advocate for a liberal education, he often told students, ‘Remember that the liberal arts are liberating. They are the ones that liberate your mind from prejudices.’”

Boyd took his studies seriously as a teen growing up in Rock Lake, N.D. He excelled in math and science and became the first in his family to receive a four-year college degree.

After earning undergraduate degrees in mathematics and chemistry from Minot State University, Boyd taught high school math in Mohall, N.D., then in Minot. In 1973, he was named assistant principal at Minot High School and began taking master’s degree classes in Grand Forks. He then was named principal in 1976. After two years, he returned to UND to work on his doctorate with the intention of returning to Minot when he had earned his degree.

Instead, he was offered the position of director of the Extension Service at UND. Six months after taking that position, the dean of Continuing Education resigned, and Boyd was named dean after a national search. In 1998, he was named Vice President for Student and Outreach Services, a position he held until 2010 when he accepted a presidential assignment and then fully retired in 2011.

Monica Musich

Monica MusichMonica Musich, ‘82, named Valley Dairy CEO in 2000, said UND gave her a firm foundation, preparing her for the challenges of the convenience store and car wash industries.

“There’s a lot you need to learn when you go out in the real world, but my education prepared me,” she said. “UND opened up my world.”

In many ways, Musich opened her industry’s world to what she called a “softer” side. “We were women running the stores. I think we saw things differently.”

That softer side included introducing cafes and gifts to the nine convenience stores and four car washes, which employed 200 people.

After graduating from UND, Musich left the state to work for a mortgage company in Denver, Dallas and Phoenix. Five years later, Musich realized she had a great opportunity with her father’s business in Grand Forks.

Frank Schmidt, then CEO, acquired Valley Dairy in 1964, as part of the purchase of VALDAK Corporation. Musich, who had worked in the stores growing up, was again learning from her dad.

In 2016, Musich sold the business to Petro Serve USA, owned by Farmers Union Oil Company of Moorhead and based in West Fargo. The president, Kent Satrang, ’80, is a UND graduate.

Musich was happy to keep Valley Dairy in the UND family. She is also proud of her own UND family. She and her husband, Mark, ’83, ’86, as well as daughters Megan, ’20, and Madison, ’22, ’23, are all UND graduates.

Under Musich’s leadership, Valley Dairy continued to serve the local community, working with charitable causes and providing jobs and internships for UND students. Musich and her husband gave to the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration, and set up endowments for the Nistler College and the College of Engineering & Mines.

“UND has always been so supportive,” Musich said. “I wanted to give back; I want it to be a win-win.”

Arlen Nordhagen

Arlen NordhagenEven though Arlen Nordhagen, ’78, already had a plan for his college education, he agreed to tag along with his friends on their summer tour of UND.

Nordhagen, a kid from Williston, N.D., “knew” he would attend Kansas State University and study nuclear engineering. What he didn’t know was that the tagalong tour to the University of North Dakota would lead to a chance interaction with Professor Don Severson.

Severson asked him about his college plans. When Nordhagen replied, the professor’s reaction surprised him: He told Nordhagen not to study nuclear engineering and that chemical engineering was a better choice with broader career opportunities. He also told Nordhagen to study at UND. Nordhagen took that advice to heart.

Graduating with a degree in chemical engineering, Nordhagen moved on to a short stint working for DuPont. He then attended Harvard Business School, where he graduated with high distinction and was named a George F. Baker Scholar. After five years in various management positions back at DuPont, Nordhagen moved with his family to Colorado, where he worked as an entrepreneurial consultant for American Business Advisors.

That’s when he was approached with the idea for SecurCare Self-Storage. “My area of specialty was in analyzing industries and developing business plans. After I studied the self-storage industry, I realized it was a fantastic industry to be in.”

Nordhagen co-founded SecurCare Self Storage in 1988 and became president in 1999. In 2013, he created National Storage Affiliates, which today encompasses more than 1,100 self-storage properties in 42 states and Puerto Rico and is valued at $10 billion. Nordhagen is also a co-founder of MMM Healthcare, Inc., the largest Medicare advantage provider in Puerto Rico, and is the founder and principal of more than a dozen real estate and investment companies.

Don Schmid

Don SchmidWhen Don Schmid, ’61, was a junior studying social work at the University of North Dakota, he took an internship with the Benson County Social Service office. Part of that internship was spending time on the Spirit Lake Reservation.

That summer, Schmid said, “I grew up. I learned so much about poverty, injustice, and the lack of services, the lack of good medical care, and the problems of justice systems. These things shaped my whole career.”

This experience, he said, solidified his mission to improve the lives of others, especially Native Americans.

After earning a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University in New York, Schmid served more than three decades in the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services, including 12 as director of Children and Family Services. He has been an integral part in shaping the way social services are carried out and funded in North Dakota.

As “conductor,” he brought together other state and private agencies specializing in education, social services, juvenile services, and mental and behavioral health. He provided leadership in starting many programs in North Dakota to help strengthen and support families, influencing federal laws and a series of best practices modeled by other states.

One example started in 1984, when he and Kenneth Dawes, then chair of the UND Department of Social Work, jumpstarted the UND Children & Family Services Training Center for child welfare service providers, including social workers and foster and adoptive families. This university/state partnership has been duplicated in more than 30 states. The current UND director, Amy Oehlke, was a recipient of the Don Schmid Child Welfare Leadership Scholarship established by the Schmids 25 years ago.

Throughout his career, Schmid has kept UND at the forefront and vice versa. This spring, he was asked to speak at the College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines Master of Social Work hooding ceremony, recently named the Don Schmid MSW Hooding Ceremony. After learning he is also a recipient of the Sioux Award for Distinguished Achievement & Leadership, Don said he felt honored, appreciative and surprised.

Marilyn Vetter

Marilyn VetterAt the start of 2023, Marilyn (Koble) Vetter, ’88, was named President and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. Founded 40 years ago in Minnesota, the organization has an annual $100 million budget and a staff of nearly 500.

It’s a dream job for a hunter who grew up an outdoorsy farm kid outside the small town of Anamoose, N.D.

Vetter says she always had a curious streak, but it was at UND that she saw the world of possibilities available to her. She was originally determined to go to law school but discovered a love of journalism through her undergrad studies.

“What UND taught me was that it’s okay to have a path, but you can take the fork in the road,” said Vetter. “It allowed me to be a bit more spontaneous and not so predetermined.”

Vetter carried that lesson into her career, where she started as a television news reporter and anchor in Bismarck before shifting to the pharmaceutical industry. She moved from sales to government affairs to executive roles as she rose to Group Vice President, U.S. Access Strategy with Horizon Therapeutics before being named to lead Pheasants Forever.

Vetter recently lived out her childhood dream of becoming an author. She collaborated in “Brave Women at Work:  Stories of Confidence,” telling of her personal conflict with confidence meant to empower others on the difficult journey of professional and personal growth.

In addition, Vetter and her husband, Clyde, own Sharp Shooters Kennel, a German shorthaired pointer breeding and training business in Wisconsin.

Vetter had a Pheasants Forever membership for more than 20 years before becoming a member of the nonprofit’s national board of directors in 2015. Upon her selection as CEO, board chair Matt Kucharski said, “Her history as a dedicated volunteer, a lifelong bird dog lover, and a wingshooter who is passionate about our habitat mission and long-term success will resonate with members, donors, conservation partners and staff in pheasant and quail country.”

Vetter says she is humbled to receive the Sioux Award for Distinguished Achievement & Leadership from her alma mater. She says it is outside her character to get too excited about recognition, but in this case, she was over the moon, calling her sister to say, “You won’t believe this!”

Josh Brandsted

Josh BrandstedJosh Brandsted, ’08, was offered a job in March 2008. Greco Properties, LLC wanted him to start right away. At the time, Brandsted was finishing his degree in managerial finance and corporate accounting and working five nights a week managing a downtown Grand Forks bar. He wasn’t sure he was interested in the real estate industry.

But the economy was precarious, and he needed a job upon graduation.

Brandsted made a plan. He worked with his professors to complete his classwork on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. He took an overnight train to Minneapolis on Thursdays, arriving Friday in time for Greco’s 9 a.m. marketing meeting. He’d work until Monday night, take the night train back to Grand Forks and arrive for class on Tuesday morning. He continued managing the bar on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

“It was the most grueling time in my life,” Brandsted said. “My professors were willing to be flexible and I had great support from my (now) wife, Kelsey (Messner, ’08).”

Fast forward 15 years. Brandsted is now owner and president of Greco Properties, LLC. He’s held numerous roles at the company, becoming president in 2015. He acquired 50% of Greco in 2019 and fully took over in 2022.

His UND experience – both in the classroom and on the football field – provided valuable lessons. “I use everything I learned in the accounting and finance department every single day,” Brandsted said. “Without that degree, I don’t think I would even be close to as successful as we’ve been here.”

As a UND football player, he learned how to manage schedules and multiple demands, and to put in the work.

Brandsted credits his success to his professors, coaches, mentors, friends and family. “I was a contributor on a lot of successful teams,” he said. “This (Young Alumni Achievement) award is a nod to all the opportunities that have been presented to me from people that believed in me and helped me along the way.”

Sally Miskavige

Sally MiskavigeSally (Opp) Miskavige, ’07, ’08, was already at a professional crossroads right out of college. With a dual degree in accounting and art, Miskavige could work at an accounting firm in Minneapolis where she interned or become the next human resource manager at Opp Construction, the Grand Forks-based company her father started in 1978. She chose the latter.

As a manager right out of college, Miskavige helped implement many culture changes like reorganizing the safety committee, replacing upper-level managers with field employees to provide more engagement when changing safety policy.

“These were small changes, but it really gives employees a voice,” Miskavige said. She’s seen the payout as they’ve reached goals like zero powerline hits last year and brought home multiple national awards for safety excellence.

Now as vice president of the company, empowering employees remains a passion of Miskavige’s. Equally so is community involvement. Miskavige started a program for employees to get paid for volunteering a week in the winter. The extra income during the company’s off-season is appreciated, and so are the opportunities to give back to the places where they live.

Miskavige is known as a “starter” not only at Opp but throughout the greater Grand Forks area. “I accidentally start stuff,” Miskavige laughed. Her eagerness to make a good idea a reality for someone else’s benefit has turned into community-wide endeavors.

Enter TAG, “The Art of Giving,” an annual art exhibition and sale Miskavige co-founded that has raised $375,000 for local charities and has had local and regional art sales of nearly $1.5 million. The first fundraiser was over a decade ago, when a gathering over wine and cheese with friends turned into a small fundraiser for breast cancer research.

“Everybody dressed up in pink, and Meghan Compton (’06, ’10, 2022 Young Alumni Achievement Award recipient) walked around with a box asking for donations,” Miskavige recalled. The funds were matched, and they decided to make it an annual tradition that eventually included art.

Eleven years later, the Grand Forks Curling Club was decked out with artwork from local and regional artists and had the most successful event yet. A week later, the space was turned over to STEAM-themed exhibits featuring displays from UND’s rocketry and robotics clubs, among others, promoting the Grand Forks Children’s Museum project, another endeavor Miskavige is spearheading to offer adaptive, interactive learning experiences for children across the region.

Miskavige and her husband, Jeremy, value teaching the arts to their two children. Music fills their home in the evenings from the four instruments their children have learned to play.

“We need to invest in our community and our children, they are our future,” Miskavige said. “It doesn’t take long for 18 years to go by, and those little kids are now members of our workforce.”