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UND founders would be proud

UND celebrates what it calls Founders Day with awards, presentations and congratulations to faculty and staff to recognize excellence. On Thursday night, as I sat among candles flickering in glass bowls of clear water, starched white tableclothes...

UND celebrates what it calls Founders Day with awards, presentations and congratulations to faculty and staff to recognize excellence.

On Thursday night, as I sat among candles flickering in glass bowls of clear water, starched white tableclothes and the floating musical sounds of the group Sketches in Blue, I was amazed at the young people in black-and-white uniforms and period hats who were scurrying about serving the 200 or so tables. The event reminded me of a New York City restaurant affair an event done with panache.

It was amazing to see so many faculty and staff at this event, and I wondered if a thermometer would "pop out the top" if it could measure the brainpower here. It is remarkable that a relatively small university (when compared with the University of Minnesota and other much bigger schools) has such an impressive group of people.

Before you dismiss my overly enthusiastic assessment of the caliber of people here, you should look at the resumes of some of the scholars at UND.

And here are a few of my own examples of why awards were and ought to be given to many faculty and staff.

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My first experience at UND was with the School of Law. At first, I was thoroughly intimidated by a building full of lawyers. I would learn as I began to get to know the staff that they were experts in their field, but in many ways ordinary. There was the banjo-playing criminal law lawyer, the lawyer who loved dog shows (as I do), a favorite lawyer who gave me a braid of sweet grass, another giant among attorneys who told me a history of Germans and tutored me a bit and other good professors whom the students loved to talk about.

Law professor Patti Alleva hates to have her name mentioned and will grimace at what I am going to say here, but I must. Alleva almost single-handedly nurtured and cajoled the Northern Plains Indian Law Center to what it is today a nationally known and accepted project. Without her consistent efforts, I don't know if there would have been the center and projects at the law school there are today. She also is a good friend. A few years ago, she received a well-deserved award for her outstanding contributions.

From the center's roots, I believe, came Kathryn Rand and Steven Light's law work on tribal casinos something new in Indian country and elsewhere. Among American Indian tribes and casinos, law professor Rand and associate professor of political science Light are the experts. They took a subject that requires a good understanding of Indian people and developed a Bible of information on the subject of gaming. On Thursday, they received the McDermott Award for excellence in teaching, research or creative activity and service.

From the gavel of the law to the study of societies: Frank White an assistant professor of sociology who, incidentally, I interviewed as a "Prairie Voices" subject in 2003 received the Karleen Rosaaen Faculty Award for excellence in academic advising. When he went up to receive his award, the audience responded well. I heard he has a reputation among his peers and students as a professor who gives his all to his students.

Other recipients whom I don't know personally included Daphne Pedersen-Stevens, assistant professor of sociology. She received Bertin C. Gamble Award for individual excellence in teaching. Jack Weinstein, assistant professor of philosophy and religion, received the McDermott Award for individual excellence in teaching. Thomas Hill, professor of microbiology and immunology, received the Lydia and Arthur Saiki Prize for graduate or professional teaching excellence.

Two professors got the same award because both are outstanding. Michael Gaffy, professor of space studies, and Wayne Seames, associate professor of chemical engineering, both received the Thomas J. Clifford Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Research.

The Department of Chemical Engineering received the Fellows of the University Award for departmental excellence in teaching.

The UND Foundation was a part of all these awards. The Founders Day committee also congratulated 32 retired and retiring faculty and staff many with more than 30 years of service. Forty faculty and staff received thanks for 25 years of services.

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One who stands out among those who retired after more than 30 years is Richard Crawford, Chester Fritz Distinguished professor of biology and recipient of other awards because knowingly or unknowingly, he taught me some of the biology of birds and the botanical secrets of prairie plants.

I knew the plants had spiritual meaning and held curatives, but Crawford helped me expand that knowledge and taught me many of the plants' formal names. That role as a teacher also includes my friend, a woman who walks gently on the earth: Glinda Crawford.

I thank them all for guiding, nurturing and supporting our children on their path.

Wet AXKooss'teeRIt I thank you.

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