The city of Grand Forks and UND have been recognized with one of the nation's highest awards for outstanding town/gown relations.

The city and university were selected as the winners of the Larry Abernathy Award from the International Town & Gown Association. The award is given annually to a city and university that together best exemplify the mission of ITGA and demonstrate a clear desire to collaborate for the betterment of their campus and community, according to a press release.

“It’s an honor for the city of Grand Forks and UND to receive this award jointly,” Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski said in a statement. “The positive environment we’ve created will be crucial as we work on more value-added and successful partnerships.“

Brandon Bochenski is shown in this Herald file photo in June 2020, around the time he was sworn in as mayor of Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Brandon Bochenski is shown in this Herald file photo in June 2020, around the time he was sworn in as mayor of Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

In an application for the award, the city and the university said that together, they “have shifted our community culture to one of ongoing collaboration rather than simple and occasional cooperation,” Grand Forks and UND noted in their application for the award.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

“Students and longtime residents alike are creating new opportunities for designated leaders and everyday people to shape a community they’re proud to call home.”

The projects laid out in the application included the work done by the city and UND to turn “University Avenue’s aggravating potholes into a powerful new path to progress,” as well as the extensive partnerships, workforce development projects, research efforts and other joint initiatives that the city and university have developed in recent years. The application also spoke about student internship programs between the two entities.

“The success over the past years comes from the mutual mindset that what is good for the community is good for the university, and vice-versa,” Bochenski said.

Bochenski and UND President Andrew Armacost are both nearly a year into their leadership positions in the community. Bochenski said he’s “proud of the way we’ve been able to capitalize on these strategic projects so early in our tenures.”

"I salute Grand Forks, ‘North Dakota nice’ personified, a city that now has won – along with UND – the Larry Abernathy Award for outstanding town-and-gown relations, and that twice won the Air Mobility Command’s Abilene Trophy for the community that best supports its local Air Force Base,” Armacost said. “At UND, we treasure our relationship with Grand Forks. We’ve done so ever since city, UND and Dakota Territory leaders laid the campus’ first cornerstone back in 1883.”

UND President Andrew Armacost.  Grand Forks Herald photo by Eric Hylden.
UND President Andrew Armacost. Grand Forks Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

The award is named for former Clemson, S.C., Mayor Larry Abernathy, a leader whose passion for town-gown collaborative efforts led to ITGA’s creation in 2003. The first Larry Abernathy Award was presented in 2013.

This year’s award was presented during the ITGA’s annual conference, which was held virtually in Milwaukee on Wednesday, May 26.

“We are extremely grateful for the International Town and Gown Association’s recognition, and exceptionally proud of our close working relationship with Grand Forks,” Armacost said.