Ted Gillett, sixth president of Bemidji State University, dies at age 86

BEMIDJI, Minn. (Oct. 10, 2011) — Lowell R. “Ted” Gillett, who served as the sixth president of Bemidji State University from 1982-1990, passed away Sunday, Oct. 9, in hospice care at the age of 86. Gillett’s nearly eight-year tenure as Bemidji State’s president was highlighted by student-centered construction and renovation projects that included the construction of the Gillett Recreation and Fitness Center and the Pine Hall renovation into apartments for students who were single parents.

Ted Gillett

Memorial services will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the United Methodist Church in Bemidji with Rev. Gay Albers officiating. Visitation will be from 5-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at the Cease Family Funeral Home in Bemidji, and beginning at 10 a.m. prior to the service on Saturday.

Gillett began his career as an educator in 1947 as a teacher and coach at Amboy Public Schools. He later spent two years at Sherburn Public Schools before becoming a teacher and assistant principal at Austin Public Schools in 1951, where he remained for 11 years. He moved on to the University of North Dakota in 1962, where he began his career in higher education with a one-year graduate assistantship.

In 1963, Gillett was named professor of educational psychology at St. Cloud State University, a position he would hold for most of the next two decades. He was acting dean of the School of Education at St. Cloud State from 1965-67, then served as dean of the graduate school from 1967-75, 1976-77 and from 1978-81. Gillett served as acting vice president for academic affairs at St. Cloud State from 1975-76 and was the University’s interim president in 1981-82.

Gillett then moved on to Bemidji State, where he became the school’s sixth president. His tenure began Aug. 1, 1982, and he retired nearly eight years later on June 30, 1990.

During his tenure, the campus underwent a tremendous period of renovation and construction. In 1986, the Laboratory School was rebuilt as the Education-Art Building, and in 1989 Sattgast Hall underwent a significant renovation and the Recreation and Fitness Center was completed. Gillett called the Recreation and Fitness Center, now named in his honor, “perhaps the single most significant physical improvement in making the campus more attractive to students.”

In 1990, as Gillett’s term as president was coming to an end, the University completed a renovation of Pine Hall into apartments for students who were single parents and debuted the Alumni Arch outside Deputy Hall. The arch has become one of the University’s most noticeable landmarks and serves as the unofficial gateway to campus.

The construction and renovation projects helped fuel a period of across-the-board enrollment growth at BSU. From 1983 to 1990, total enrollment at Bemidji State grew from 4,893 to 5,423, while on-campus enrollment grew from 4,303 to 4,658.

Gillett earned his bachelor of arts degree in English from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1947; a master of arts in psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1954; and a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of North Dakota in 1965.

Lowell Reno “Ted” Gillett was born in Minneapolis to Reno and Ethel Gillett on Feb. 23, 1925. He and his wife, Ardis, have two daughters, Judy Dittberner and Amy Gillett.