|Board approves three to receive honorary degrees|
The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, a University of North Dakota graduate and former North Dakota governor, the late president of Home of Economy, and the creator and developer of the American College of Norway have been approved by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education to receive honorary degrees from UND.
Edward Schafer, Jean Kiesau and Steinar Opstad will join the ranks of more than 200 recipients, including President John F. Kennedy, internationally known heart surgeon Michael DeBakey, and philosopher Mortimer Adler. UND presented its first honorary degree, a Doctor of Laws, in 1909 to Webster Merrifield, who served the University for 25 years, including 18 as its third president.
Recently appointed the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Edward Schafer received his bachelor's degree in business administration from UND in 1969 and an MBA from Denver University in 1970. Schafer, who will serve as the main commencement speaker at UND's spring 2008 graduation ceremonies, served until recently as a member of the UND Alumni Association and UND Foundation boards of directors.
Schafer was sworn in as the 29th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on January 28, 2008. He served as North Dakota's governor from 1992 to 2000, and made diversifying and expanding North Dakota's economy, reducing the cost of government and advancing agriculture his top priorities in office. He worked to normalize trade relations with China and develop that nation as an export market for North Dakota farm products. He also led efforts to upgrade North Dakota's communications infrastructure and make high-speed voice and data networks available to farmers, ranchers and rural businesses.
To expand the state's job base, he encouraged the growth of value-added agricultural industries such as pasta and corn sweetener manufacturing. As governor, Schafer managed a state workforce of 12,000 people, oversaw a budget of $4.6 billion, and led the state's response to emergencies such as the severe flood that hit Grand Forks and the Red River Valley in 1997. As chair of the Western Governors Association, Schafer led regional efforts to demonstrate how technology could improve efficiency and lower the cost of delivering government services such as health benefits and food stamps. He also worked to make telemedicine more available and affordable in rural areas.
Schafer was elected chair of the Republican Governors Association in 2000. That same year he co-founded and co-chaired the Governors Biotechnology Partnership to increase public understanding and support for the benefits of agricultural biotechnology. He has had a lifelong interest in conservation and helped arrange the U.S. Forest Service's May 2007 purchase of the 5,200-acre Elkhorn ranch in North Dakota. The site was where Theodore Roosevelt had his home and operated a cattle ranch in the 1880s. It is near the preserved town of Medora.
Schafer's grandfather immigrated to North Dakota from Denmark and homesteaded land in Hettinger County that he turned into a wheat and livestock farm. Born and raised in Bismarck, Schafer spent summers on the farm while growing up. He helped his uncles with chores, tinkered with engines and learned firsthand about agriculture.
Before entering public life, Schafer was an executive with the Gold Seal Company in Bismarck, a successful marketer of nationally known consumer products such as "Mr. Bubble" bubble bath, "Glass Wax" glass cleaner and "Snowy Bleach." The company had been founded by his father, Harold Schafer.
Schafer joined Gold Seal after he earned his MBA and held a series of management positions with the company before becoming president in 1978. Under his leadership, Gold Seal's sales climbed to $50 million through acquisitions and new product introductions, and its net worth tripled. It was sold in 1986. Schafer then went on to launch several new businesses, including a commercial real estate development company, a fish farm, and a classic car dealership
After leaving office in 2000, he co-founded Extend America, a venture capital-backed company, to provide wireless voice and high-speed data services to commercial and residential customers in five rural Midwestern states. He also served as a director of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation that oversees the historic town's operations and became active in leading several other nonprofit and citizens advocacy groups in North Dakota.
Schafer and his wife, Nancy, have four children; Tom Schafer, Ellie Schafer and Eric Jones and Kari Hammer; and eight grandchildren.
The late president of the Home of Economy stores, Jean Kiesau was born in Arvilla, N.D. Soon after she married her husband Bob Kiesau, she began in the retail business. The two opened their first store in 1939 in Thief River Falls, Minn. Bob organized and was the first president of the Mid-States Distributing Company Inc. in 1953.
Kiesau became the president in 1970. Under her leadership, the five stores were (and remain) the largest independently owned retailers in the Midwest. The Grand Forks store was destroyed by a fire in 1987 and then rebuilt in the same location.
Kiesau was recognized for her contributions to the community with the Greater Grand Forks Woman of the Year from Beta Sigma Phi, and the Henry Havig Community Leadership Award from the Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce. In 1994, both Bob and Jean were inducted into the North Dakota Entrepreneur Hall of Fame for their founding of the Home of Economy stores. Both supported UND with their contribution of the M.W. "Bob" and Jean Kiesau Endowment, which funds primary needs at UND, and the M.W. Kiesau Scholarship awarded annually to marketing majors in the College of Business and Public Administration.
Steiner Opstad has made an impact on thousands of American and Norwegian students at the American College of Norway as a UND ambassador in Europe. Opstad was responsible for the creation and the development of American College. Since 1991, this program has opened the door for many students to learn in another country. The relations that several departments at UND have in Norway can be traced back to Opstad. The result: UND is the number one destination for Norwegian students to study in America.
Opstad is trained in pedagogy, sociology, and business with two degrees from the University of Oslo, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has become a citizen of the world, spending years working with organizations to assist developing countries in strengthening their economies, educational systems and ways of life. He has spent most of his time in Asia and working with the United Nations.
Opstad is an active participant in the Nordic Initiative and was the vice president of the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO). Early in his career he was a journalist, editor, and publisher with the Norwegian Broadcasting Company (NRK), as well as vice president with Fred Olsen & Co., doing shipping for Timex Corp. He was also a co-founder and chairman of the Worldview International Foundation in 1979, bringing communication technologies to 31 developing nations.
Opstad currently resides in Sarpsborg, Norway, and is an honorary citizen of Grand Forks, N.D.