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Bede relatives.

Dedication of a new ballroom in honor of the late Retta Bede was attended by Bede's niece, Virginia Thirlkel (right), and grandniece, Mary Sopko, of Ohio.

Crookston celebrates a centennial

Reunion kicks off a year of festivities

By Gayla Marty

Published on June 28, 2005

From as near as Crookston and as far as Las Vegas, they came--nearly 300 alumni of what was once the Northwest School of Agriculture, or NWSA, now a baccalaureate-degree-granting campus of the University of Minnesota.

Under blazing midsummer sun and stars and new maroon and gold banners on the mall, they gathered, dined, danced, toured, cut ribbons, and dedicated a ballroom. They reminisced about college life and celebrated a century of higher education in the Red River Valley. They also talked about the future of this campus at the forefront of the University's endeavor to become one of the top three public research universities in the nation. It was one of the largest reunion crowds in recent campus history.

The NWSA reunion formally kicked off the centennial of the University of Minnesota, Crookston--a yearlong celebration that will also feature the dedication of a new student center and a groundbreaking for a new residence hall. On Friday, Crookston mayor Don Osborne proclaimed the Year of UMC, from June 24 through graduation in 2006.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the dedication of Bede Ballroom on the second floor of the sparkling student center. What was once Bede Hall, named in honor of NWSA home economics teacher Retta Bede, was demolished to make way for the new center. Bede served the campus from 1925 to 1957 and died in 1982 at the age of 91. But her niece, Virginia Thirlkel, and grandniece, Mary Sopko, traveled from Ohio to attend the dedication of the ballroom in the new center on Friday night. After the ceremony, Dick King and the Classic Swing Band provided music to inaugurate the ballroom full of dancers.

On Saturday, alumni viewed a centennial video, honored the class of 1955, and helped to dedicate the memorial gardens in Centennial Park, a tribute to alumni, faculty, and significant persons and events on the campus.

The closing event on Saturday was a banquet in honor of seven alumni who received Top Aggie awards for lifetime achievement: from the class of 1950, Dennis Driscoll of Las Vegas and Lyle Kasprick of Orono, Minnesota; from the class of 1954, Merlin Skretvedt of Edwardsville, Illinois; and from the class of 1955, Keith Chisholm of Gary, Minnesota, Glen and Marlys (Love) Finkenbinder of Crookston, and Arnie Skeie of Green Valley, Arizona.

Harlene Hagen, class of 1955, was also honored with an outstanding service award for dedicated service to the alumni association.

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