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Mayville State has seen record enrollments, fundraising gains

To celebrate Mayville State University's 125th anniversary, MSU president Gary Hagen drove the 1930 Model A that he restored the same year that he began his presidency. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

MAYVILLE, N.D. — Alumni of Mayville State University returning this weekend to observe the school’s 125th Anniversary will find their alma mater in the midst of a renaissance.


The school set an attendance record this past fall for the fourth consecutive year, with 1,065 students, and a spring enrollment record this year of 1,020. Officials expect the fall mark to tumble again this year.

Financially, the university has experienced a reversal of fortunes, going from an annual deficit of $500,000 eight years ago to a reserve fund now totaling more than $1.6 million.

Some $29 million in improvements have been made in the past six years, with more underway and planned.

“We’ve had a fairy-tale run,” said MSU President Gary Hagen, an MSU graduate who in July will start his ninth year at the helm.

The recent construction projects include:

  •  A new coal-and-wood-burning power plant that has cut the university’s annual utility bill by more than $500,000.

“That solved our cash flow problems in one stroke,” Hagen said.

  •  Conversion of Agassiz Hall from a 288-room dormitory to a combination of two-bedroom suites and apartments, with total occupancy of 144.
  •  A 14,000-square-foot addition to the Science-Library building to house the school’s Education and Psychology programs.
  •  Demolition of East Hall and West Hall, two aged, deteriorating former residence halls that had been used for classrooms and offices in recent years.
  •  Renovation and conversion of the old Northwest Hall, built in 1911, into what now is the school’s first-ever alumni and campus leadership center and home to the MSU Foundation. The foundation’s endowment has doubled to about $5 million in the past five years, according to Hagen.

The weekend’s feature event is dedication of the Edson and Margaret Larson Alumni and Leadership Center at 11 a.m. Friday.

The former Northwest Hall, built in 1911 as an infirmary for sick students, has served over the years as a dormitory, the college president’s home and as a housing facility for married students.

Initial fundraising and building rehabilitation work began more than a decade ago after the school received a $340,000 gift from the Edson and Margaret Larson Foundation.

Four years ago, Doug Anderson, a 1974 MSU graduate, led a fund drive that raised more than $900,000 to complete the project. Anderson, who grew up two blocks from the MSU campus, has taught art at Cavalier (N.D.) High School the past four decades.

“The philanthropic turnaround, in the three years I’ve been here, has just been amazing,” MSU Foundation Executive Director John Klocke.

More to come

Alumni also will see a construction zone on the east side of campus.

The state Legislature appropriated $2.2 million last year for a storm sewer drainage project designed to alleviate a severe flooding problem on campus. The project is expected to be completed by September.

The Legislature also approved $5.5 million to demolish and replace the 14,000-square-foot Old Gymnasium, which was built in 1929 and has become a serious safety concern, according to Steve Bensen, vice president of business affairs.

The new 37,000-square-foot Health, Physical Education and Recreation building, which will include about 25,000 square feet of classroom and laboratory space, is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2015.

University leaders will present a request next week to the State Board of Higher Education for a proposed $19 million renovation of Old Main, the school’s oldest building — constructed in 1909 — and its main administrative headquarters.

They’re hoping the state board will rank that project high on its list of potential capital improvement projects the Legislature will consider in 2015.

Expanding reach

Hagen also points to expanding programs and collaborative efforts with business and industry, public schools, colleges and universities throughout North Dakota.

The school has developed collaborative efforts with other schools, including Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, Bismarck State College, Williston State College and North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton so students there can pursue four-year degrees in business administration, early childhood education, elementary education and other programs.

Recent program expansions include a collaborative nursing program with Lake Region State and a four-year bachelor of science nursing degree program.

MSU also offers an undergraduate degree in special education. In addition, it offers a four-year business degree at Cankdeska Cikana Community College, a tribal college at the Spirit Lake Nation. 

Hagen, who has been at the university for 39 years, said the school’s new campus leadership center will continue its tradition of training community leaders.

Over the past five years, he said, 80 percent of MSU’s teacher education graduates and 78 percent of its non-teacher graduates found employment in North Dakota.

 “We take these kids, educate them and hopefully, they stay in North Dakota and are successful,” he said, “not just in their careers but are leaders in their community.”

Schedule of events

Mayville State University

125th Anniversary Alumni Days

And May-Port Summerfest


7 p.m. — Sanford-Mayville 5K/10K Run.


11 a.m. — Dedication of the Edson & Margaret Larson Alumni and Leadership Center.

Noon — Alumni Days Kickoff Celebration and Picnic, MSU Larson Alumni Center.

2 p.m. — Homecoming 2014 Art Show Preview, MSU Classroom Building, featuring artwork of alumnus Doug Anderson.

2-4 p.m. — Campus open houses and tours

3 p.m. — Social for Distinguished Alumni & Distinguished Service Award recipients, Larson Alumni Center.

5:30 p.m. — Alumni Association Awards Dinner, MSU Campus Center Luckasen Room.


10:30 a.m. — Summerfest Parade

Noon-3 p.m. Food, games at Island Park, Mayvillle

Noon — Red Caps Baseball Reunion, MSU Larson Center.

4-8 p.m. Mayville State All-Class Reunion, MSU Larson Center.

9 p.m. — Firemen’s Street Dance in downtown Mayville.


All-Faiths Worship Service

Kevin Bonham

Kevin Bonham covers regional news, mostly from northeast North Dakota, for the Grand Forks Herald. A North Dakota native who grew up in Mandan and Dickinson, he has been a reporter or an editor with the Herald and Forum Communications for more than 30 years. Find his articles at: He welcomes story ideas via email,, or by phone, (701) 780-1110.  

(701) 780-1110