|Schafer to deliver UND commencement address|
The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Edward Schafer, will give the main address at the University of North Dakota's general spring commencement Saturday, May 10, at 1:30 p.m. in the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. About 1,650 students are eligible to cross the stage when President Charles Kupchella presides over his last commencements (general, law and medicine) at UND.
At the general ceremony, UND will award two honorary Doctor of Letters degrees -- one to Secretary Schafer and one posthumously to Jean Kiesau, a long-time Grand Forks business and community leader who was president of Home of Economy. UND will award its highest honor for faculty, the Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorships, to Michael J. Gaffey, professor of space studies, Thomas Mohr, professor of physical therapy, and Kevin D. Young, professor microbiology and immunology. Also at the general commencement, John Q. Paulson, president of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, will award Kupchella the title of President Emeritus, in honor of Kupchella's nine very successful years as UND's chief executive officer.
In addition to the general commencement, the UND School of Law will holds its commencement ceremony Saturday, May 10, at 9 a.m. in the Chester Fritz Auditorium. North Dakota U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson, a graduate of the UND School of Law, is the speaker.
The UND School of Medicine will hold its commencement ceremonies Sunday, May 11, at 1:30 p.m. in the Chester Fritz Auditorium. Dr. Rod J. Rohrich, professor and chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and UND alum [note: he did post-baccalaureate work at UND; he received his medical degree from Baylor University College of Medicine], is the Medical School commencement speaker.
Each year, UND graduates students through commencements in the spring, summer and winter. The total number of graduates has increased steadily each of the last seven years: 2,783 (2006-07), 2,600 (2005-06), 2,478 (2004-05), 2,327 (2003-04), 2,223 (2002-03), 2,162 (2001-02) and 2,144 (2000-01).
UND Honorary Degrees
Edward Schafer and Jean Kiesau 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. Two more will receive honorary degrees in August: Steinar Opstad, the creator and developer of the American College of Norway, at the Aug. 1 summer commencement and Phil Jackson, legendary National Basketball Association coach and standout UND student-athlete and graduate, at a special Aug. 25 convocation in celebration of UND’s 125th anniversary.
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. He 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 citizen 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.
Bob Kiesau died in 1984. Jean Kiesau passed away Jan. 24, 2008. She was 93.