“We need you now – more than ever.”

That message came out loud and clear after the flood of 1997 to SPA, the Summer Performing Arts program.

And the Grand Forks public schools program came up with “Keep the faith.”

This year, Dean Opp, who has been a director of SPA at Red River High School since its inception 32 years ago, is retiring.

He says he always will remember 2020 as the year of the show that wasn’t. With the threat of coronavirus, everything has been canceled.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

In the beginning

Dean Opp looks back on the beginnings of SPA in Grand Forks in 1987. He worked with Brad Sherwood and others as directors at Red River High School. The program expanded to Central High and moved into grade schools. He remembers the initial support of Mark Sanford, former superintendent, and Mary Larson on the school board.

The program expanded in recent years to an enrollment of more than 1,400 students from grades through high school.

And Dean Opp says SPA brings out the confidence to speak. “Everybody performs. Not just the lead in the show.”

Ever onward

Always enthusiastic, Opp is retiring with the same unbridled enthusiasm for the future of SPA. He is married to Mary Haslerud Opp who is a speech teacher. They met in a graduate class at the University of North Dakota.

Their son, Luke, is a fifth grade teacher. Their daughter, Hannah, is on her way as a nutrition health coach.

With his pride in the work of the SPA, Dean Opp isn’t planning to move away from Grand Forks. He is one of five other siblings in the family of Helen Opp and the late Tom Opp.

He values education they have received at UND. He values the children of children who have taken part in the summer SPA program.

These days, he has been cleaning out his office. He watches former students take over and says, “It’s so great to see.”

Reach Marilyn Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.com or by telephone at 701-772-1055.