DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Thought Of Wes Christenson

Today (Monday) Dorette and I returned from Chicago to attend the annual jazz festival, an event we’ve seldom missed in recent years.

I also marked the 50th anniversary of my graduation from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

How time flies.

On Thursday, we took a subway train to Evanston and wandered about the NU campus, including a stop at the journalism building, Fisk Hall. It was at this place and in Medill’s working laboratory — the city of Chicago — that I lived some of the most intense moments of my life.

While there this time, I even purchased a Northwestern-branded purple sweater that will annoy friends who are Gopher or Badger fans.

As I had planned to do if the building was open, we paused at the “Honor Wall” in Fisk that acknowledges the top ranked master’s degree graduate for each year. Probably for the last time, I scanned the burnished metal plates until I reached 1966.

The name inscribed there isn’t mine.

That distinction was awarded to my friend and University of North Dakota classmate, the late Wesley J. Christenson.

We had been small-town NoDak kids, I in Harvey, Wes in Hettinger. We both won substantial scholarships to Medill. Mine was better, I kidded Wes, because it was free and clear. Later, I wasn’t so sure. His scholarship required him to work part-time for a suburban weekly newspaper chain, experience that later looked great on his vita.

And, in fact, life after Medill was very good for Wes, who became nationally prominent in the field we both chose, higher education.

Among other positions, he was public relations director at Georgetown and Boston Universities.

But later in life, for reasons unclear to me, fortune turned on him. He spiraled downward mentally and physically, dying a solitary, way too early death.

At Fisk Hall, I tipped my hat to Wes and offered up a silent prayer in celebration of having known him when we were both young, and time seemed to stretch ahead without end.

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