|Bruce Gjovig receives Royal award|
Bruce Gjovig has received the officer-knight Order of Merit given to nationals and foreigners to reward their service to Norway. Gjovig, who grew up near Crosby, N.D., received the award from Norway Ambassador Wegger Strommen at its embassy in Washington, D.C. Gjovig received the medal to honor his work with the Center for Innovation and the Nordic Initiative program at the University of North Dakota.
The Center for Innovation provides assistance to innovators, entrepreneurs and researchers to launch new endeavors with the help of private and public funds. Since it was formed in 1984, the center has helped launch over 400 new products, employing more than 4,000 people and has received over $110 million in investments.
Gjovig's Norwegian passion began back in the early 1990s when, as the founding director for the center, he was invited to Norway to speak with businesses and government officials about entrepreneurship in business.
"Many (Dakotans) have a strong interest in the heritage and culture, but most don't have any connections to modern Norway," Gjovig said.
In 1997, the Nordic Initiative was created with a vision, "To provide extraordinary educational, intellectual, cultural, technology, research, trade and economic benefits and opportunities for students and citizens of the Upper Midwest, Norway and other Nordic countries."
The program focuses on student-exchange programs in medical, law, engineering, business, history, communication and other fields of study. Having survived the chopping block on more than one occasion, UND's Nordic Initiative is the second largest Norwegian program in nation, having hosted over 90 groups and dignitaries. Gjovig added that the program probably would not have survived if not for Norway and North Dakota's similarities both physically, with a small, mostly rural population and socially, sharing similar values and culture characteristics.
"Norway is a small country that has a huge impact on the world," Gjovig said. "North Dakota is also small, but wants to have an enormous impact. The Nordic initiative fostered an understanding and a relationship. It's a chance to impact the lives of modern Norway, which is a very sophisticated country."
"Being a farm boy from Crosby, it's a terrific honor," he said. "I'm delighted to bring the award back to North Dakota, the heart of Norway in the U.S. But I am accepting the award on behalf of the initiative."
Traveling to Washington to receive the award was e a reunion of sorts.
"Wegger (Strommen) has been a friend for many years and I have a great deal of respect for him," Gjovig said, "So this was fun for me."
Gjovig said he is planning a trip to the Leading Edge Technology Park in Stavanger, Norway, to participate in several intellectual exchanges with numerous oil, manufacturing and technology businesses.
"With the recent oil boom in North Dakota and the existing boom in Norway, there is a huge opportunity in the oil industry and there is much we can learn from the Norwegians," he said.
"In the early 1900s, Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe, but its economic transformation is astounding." Gjovig added. "I want to bring back the educational, investment and technology concepts back to North Dakota to help people rise to their potential."
History of the Order of Merit medal
In 1985, five years before his death, King Olav created a medal of merit for nationals and foreigners as a reward for their outstanding service to Norway. The medals, divided into three categories, have been awarded every year since its inception, first by King Olav and currently by his son, King Harald.
According to the official Web site of Danish Monarchy Statistics, "The insignia of the Order is the Cross of St. Olav, wrought in gold or silver, with a plain cross in each of the four corners formed by the arms of the cross, inlaid with a rounded, red cross in the centre with King Olav V's monogram surmounted by a crown." The medal is attached to a ribbon made of navy blue silk and is worn on the breast or around the neck, depending on the level awarded.
The total number of recipients is unknown because the Norwegian government only began archiving the names in 2002, but the number of recipients ranges every year. For 2008, 33 officer medals will be awarded, with the U.S. leading the group with nine recipients.
Five out of the seven continents are represented, spanning the globe from Canada in North America, Brazil in South America and Tanzania in Africa, to France in Europe and Thailand in Asia.
King Harald V of Norway
Harald, King of Norway, has led an interesting life even by royal standards. Born in 1937, Harald was the first prince born in Norway in 567 years. Even though he had two elder sisters, at that time Norway's constitution stipulated that only male heirs could inherit the throne. He was just three years old when the Germans invaded Norway in 1940, forcing the Royal Family minus Harald's father Olav to flee, escaping first to Sweden and later to the United States, living in Washington, D.C., until peace was declared in 1945. The Royal Family returned to Norway that same year.
Back in Norway, Harald attended school, which for a prince, emphasized a close tie to the Norwegian people and its contemporary society. After completing his education, Harald joined the Norwegian military as part of compulsory service.
After completing his military service, King Harald studied social science, history and economics at Oxford. A few years later, after the king gave his consent, he married a commoner, Sonja Haraldsen, in August 1968 an unusual move in any monarchy.
Harald, now Crown Prince, worked closely with Father, King Olav, carrying out official duties within the country and representing it overseas. In 1990, Harald became king after the death of his father from an illness.
Similar to the British monarchy, King Harald's primary duties are largely ceremonial, acting as the custodian of royal tradition. While he can address and influence legislation, a majority of the power lies within the governmental body. Similar to the United States' "Commander-in-Chief" King Harald commands the military, holding the rank of General in the Army and Air Force, and of Admiral in the Navy.
Like many North Dakotans, King Harald is an active hunter and fisherman. His love of wilderness and concern for the environment led him to serve for 20 years as president of the World Wildlife Fund Norwegian chapter. He is also an avid yachtsman who has competed and won many national and international sailing competitions.