Chamber's Henry Havig Award calls up memories of good works

The Henry Havig Award for Community Service is presented by the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce each year to a person who provided exemplary leadership service to the community over a period of time, across a variety of community activities.

Henry Havig, from March 1970 issue of UND's The Alumni Review. (submitted by the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections at the Chester Fritz Library)

Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, was awarded the prestigious Henry Havig Award for Community Service for 2020 . In 2019, it went to Kristi Magnuson Nelson, CEO and president of Hugo’s Family Marketplace. But who was the man for whom the award is named?

The Henry Havig Award for Community Service is presented by the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce each year to a person who provided exemplary leadership service to the community over a period of time, across a variety of community activities. The award is considered the highest honor a person from the Greater Grand Forks area can receive for community service. The award is named after Henry Havig, who was born in Cooperstown in 1908. The March 1970 issue of UND’s Alumni Review described him as “one of the county’s outstanding civic leaders.”

Havig attended UND and graduated in 1931. He ran a men’s clothing store downtown at a time when there were six other clothing stores for men that were open for business. Hal Gershman, president of Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops and 2001 recipient of the Henry Havig Award, was familiar with the store.

“If I remember, it was not large, but (it was a) very, very elegant store,” Gershman told the Herald. “Very high-quality merchandise.”

According to staff at the Grand Forks County Historical Society, Havig married Lilah M. Heen in 1937. He ran his store until 1955, after which he became involved in real estate and investments. It was at that time that he got involved in civic life. He served two terms on the Grand Forks City Council starting in 1964, and, before that, he was president of the board of the Chamber in 1955 and 1956.


Havig worked to establish Chambers of Commerce in seven cities across the country, from Florida to North Dakota, according to an article in the March 1970 issue of the UND Alumni review, provided to the Herald by Curt Hanson, head of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections at UND’s Chester Fritz Library.

The article notes that among his contributions to the community, Havig was coordinator for the old YMCA building downtown and was building coordinator for when the YMCA opened on University Avenue.

Havig, according to the Alumni Review, was featured in publications including “Who’s Who in Commerce and Industry,” “Who’s Who in the Midwest” and “Outstanding Civic Leaders of America.”

“A complete list of civic accomplishments of the Grand Forks resident would fill several Alumni Reviews,” reads a portion of the article.

Havig died in 1975 in Rochester, Minnesota, after a long illness. The award was created two years later to remember the man who, in 1970, told the Alumni Review: “I’m trying my best to pay back the community and its residents for their faith in me.”

The award is determined by the group of those who have received it. Holmberg, the 45th recipient of the award, recalled what it was like when he learned he would be recognized: “It was just mind boggling because it was such an honor. I had no idea that I was even being considered. It's really a long list of people who have contributed to the community, and then you sit there and look at yourself and say, but they did so much more.”

Gershman said much the same, when he was given the award in 2001.

“When I saw the other men and women who had won the Henry Havig award, I was kind of surprised to be in there,” he told the Herald. “You look at those folks that won, people that you admire and respect, and now all of a sudden, you've been given the honor to be in there, too. It was very much appreciated.”


All-time winners, and the year for which they were awarded, are:

Charles Goodman, 1977

Hugo Magnuson, 1978

Edward Lander, 1979

Thomas Clifford, 1980

Lawrence Bue, 1981;

Harry Rice, 1982

Jean Kiesau, 1983


Clarence Sande, 1984

Edward Christenson, 1985

Don Miller, 1986

Ray Bostrom, 1987

Richard Fiala, 1988

Richard Wold, 1989

James Dalglish, 1990

Don Lindgren, 1991

Earl Strinden, 1992

Thomas McElroy Jr., 1993

John Marshall, 1994

Curt Magnuson, 1995

Patrick Dooley, 1996

James Gjerset, 1997

Ken Towers, 1998;

Don Larsen, 1999

Walter Swingen, 2000

Hal Gershman, 2001

Robert Kerr, 2002

Marlan Helgeson, 2003

Bob Peabody, 2004

Greg Gerloff, 2005

Randy Newman, 2006

Dr. Robert Boyd, 2007

Dave McFarlane, 2008

Gordon Caldis and Gerry Joyce, 2009

Don Fisk, 2010

Wes Rydell, 2011

Judi Paukert, 2012

Henry Tweten, 2013

Jim Hansen, 2014

Duane Hafner, 2015

Marijo Shide, 2016

Lonnie Laffen, 2017

James R. Bradshaw, 2018

Kristi Magnuson Nelson, 2019

Ray Holmberg, 2020

Related Topics: HISTORY
Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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