DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Thoughts on New Year’s Eve

On this New Year’s Eve, I’m thinking of all the people who paid me for doing a job.

Here (above) I’m pictured with my favorite boss, Thomas J. Clifford. I was his director of public relations and executive assistant for 19 of the 21 years he was president of the University of North Dakota. It’s impossible to overstate the influence he had on me.

But I also want to mention the others who over my long life gave me cash for working for them.

True, my first experience was not a good one.

At the time, I was a pre-teen growing up on the farm. A neighbor hired me after rain soaked the shocks of wheat waiting to be put through a threshing machine, a common sight then in central North Dakota.

My job was to rotate the bundles of shocks so the sun could thoroughly dry them.

It was a tiring task on a hot day, but I got the job done and reported for my pay. The farmer turned to his hired man and said, “Give the kid six bits.”

Seventy-five cents?

I hadn’t yet learned about the f-bomb or I would have used it.

But as it turned out, I never again felt I was unfairly compensated during my years of voyaging through the job market. Here are the others who paid me for doing interesting and important things that, deep down, I would have done for free.

  • Morris Helgerud was the first. When I was still in high school I spent a summer pumping gas at his Pure Oil Station in Harvey, N.D.
  • Hugh Farrington hired me to work at the Harvey Herald for two summers while I was a student at the University of North Dakota.
  • At UND, I worked one winter part time for Jim Hanson, sports editor of the Grand Forks Herald, calling small-town coaches for the results of their basketball games. It was there I met Jack Hagerty, the editor in chief, who later wrote a reference that helped get me into Northwestern’s Graduate School of Journalism. Two of his and wife Marilyn’s brilliant children later worked for me.
  • James Hawley, director of the State Tourism Department, hired me as a summer intern when I was a UND student and put me on full time when I completed college in 1966.
  • Not long after, Highway Department Commissioner Walter Hjelle and Chief Engineer Robert Bradley noticed the work I was doing for Jim and transferred me to the State Highway Department as its first public information officer.
  • In 1968 UND Journalism Department Chairman Alvin Austin hired me as an instructor, a job continued for an additional year by his temporary successor Herbert Strentz while Al took a leave of absence to work as a consultant.
  • In 1970, I moved on to St. Cloud State to teach journalism for two years for Richard Martin and one year for John DeSanto.
  • In 1973, I decided to quit full-time teaching. Harvey Jacobson, director of the UND Office of University Relations, hired me as his news bureau coordinator. A few months later, he moved on to the University of Michigan. Clifford selected me to replace him, and I began nearly two decades at his side.
  • Later I worked for two other UND Presidents: Kendall Baker, best known for his leadership during the historic Red River Flood of 1997, and Charles Kupchella, who first brought meaningful strategic planning to the University. He talked me into staying until I took early retirement in 2003.
  • After that I worked as a part time freelance writer and photographer. Now, I do those things strictly for pleasure.Happy New Year, my friends!

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