DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Revisiting Northwestern Drive

One hears grumbling these days at the University of North Dakota about the decision to raze older, historically important buildings to save money because of the state’s budget crisis.

As those opposed to doing so have pointed out, “old” isn’t always a negative. Still, I was surprised this summer to see apartment No. 212 on Northwestern Drive was still in use.

Nearly half a century ago, I was a new instructor with a freshly minted master’s degree. I and my then-wife were allowed to rent that unit.

Professor Alvin E. Austin of the Journalism Department, a mentor during my student days, had issued me a two-year contract to temporarily replace a faculty member on leave to complete his doctorate.

A letter of welcome awaited me when I arrived from Bernard O’Kelly, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. It suggested I drop by to see him. When I appeared at his office, he seemed uncomfortable.

Then it dawned on me.

I asked whether I was the first new faculty member to follow up on his invitation.

“You are indeed,” he replied with a grin.

From UND, I moved on to teach for three years at St. Cloud State, then enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Illinois. But at the last minute, I decided not to pursue the terminal degree required to obtain tenure and advance through the academic ranks.

Instead, I applied for an opening in UND’s public relations department and was hired for what I thought was another temporary job. New York and Chicago were beckoning.

But I ended up working my entire career as UND’s director of university relations and executive assistant to the president, until taking early retirement in 2005.

Looking back now, I don’t regret a moment of those two early years on Northwestern Drive.

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