Bemidji Pioneer: Higher education notebook: Will Weaver to deliver BSU commencement address

BEMIDJI—Bemidji State University Professor Emeritus of English and noted author Will Weaver will deliver the university’s 2018 commencement address as the recipient of BSU’s 36th Distinguished Minnesotan honor.

First presented by BSU in 1981, the Distinguished Minnesotan award acknowledges the contributions of current or former residents of the state who have performed exemplary service to the people of Minnesota or the United States.

The Distinguished Minnesotan traditionally addresses graduating seniors at BSU’s commencement ceremony, set for May 4 at Sanford Center. Weaver’s address will be streamed online.

Weaver, originally from Park Rapids, Minn., is a noted author and speaker whose focus on literacy has taken him to schools, libraries and educational events across Minnesota and the nation.

He has published more than a dozen novels and non-fiction books, including “Red Earth, White Earth,” which was adapted into a television movie on CBS in 1989, and his recent memoir, “The Last Hunter.” His 2016 short story collection “Sweet Land” includes “A Gravestone Made of Wheat,” which has been adapted into the feature film “Sweet Land” starring Ned Beatty and an off-Broadway musical which debuted last year. The original short story collection “A Gravestone Made of Wheat” won several awards, including the Minnesota Book Award for Fiction. Weaver’s 2003 young adult novel “Memory Boy” was produced into a full-length opera by the Minnesota Opera in 2016. He also published “Barns of Minnesota” with collaborator Doug Ohman in 2005.

Weaver won a demolition derby as a teenager, and his love of racing is reflected in his recent work and hobbies. His MOTOR series of novels “Saturday Night Dirt,” “Super Stock Rookie” and “Checkered Flag Cheater” explore the world of dirt-track racing, and he has formed a stock car racing team, Weaver Motors, which races in the upper Midwest’s WISSOTA circuit. As part of his research for the MOTOR series, Weaver spent a year in and around the automotive programs at Northwest Technical College.

Weaver has made a commitment to younger readers with a particular focus on encouraging boys to read. Drawing on his teenage life as a car enthusiast, his Motor Novel series includes “Saturday Night Dirt,” “Super Stock Rookie” and “Checkered Flag Cheater.” The novels, which focus the world of dirt-track racing, are aimed at teenagers with an interest in cars and auto racing. To refresh his car knowledge, Weaver spent a year in and around the automotive programs at Northwest Technical College and eventually fielded his own race team. With a teenage driver, the Team Weaver “Bookmobile” race car was a popular attraction at schools across the Midwest.

Weaver taught creative writing in the English department at BSU from 1981 until 2006, when he retired as a professor emeritus of English. Eight of his novels were published during his BSU teaching career.

Weaver has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in creative writing from Stanford.

He is currently at work on an adult novel set in the Midwest.

Weaver and his wife Rosalie, who also taught at BSU, reside on the Mississippi River in Bemidji. Dr. Rosalie Weaver retired from BSU as a professor emerita of English in 2015 after a 28-year career at the university.

BSU’s Distinguished Minnesotan award was presented annually from 1981-2009, and was not awarded in 2010 or 2012.

BSU sets schedule of Earth Month activities

BEMIDJI—BSU’s Sustainability Office has scheduled a series of Earth Month activities this April.

April 10: “Chasing Coral,” 6 p.m.—A 2017 documentary following a team of divers, photographers and scientists who set out to discover why coral reefs from around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. Location: Bensen Hall 115. Free admission.

April 11: Vegan Cooking Workshop, 4:30 p.m.—American Indian Resource Center kitchen.

April 12: Bemidji Solar Info Session, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.—A free information session about solar energy and how Bemidji Solar Co-op simplifies the process of going solar while providing discount through its bulk purchasing power. Location: Beltrami Electric, 4111 Technology Dr. NW, Bemidji.

April 14: Highway Clean-up, 10 a.m.—BSU students and staff will meet at the Mississippi River bridge on Power Dam Road NE for a highway cleanup.

April 17: “School’s Out,” 5 to 7 p.m.—A screening of the award-winning documentary “School’s Out: Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten” with a discussion afterward. “School’s Out,” winner of a Best Short Film Award from the Colorado Environmental Film Festival, follows children ages 4-7 in the Zurich, Switzerland suburb of Albis, who go to kindergarten in the woods every day. Location: Bensen Hall 115. Free admission.

April 18: Lakeshore Clean-up, 4 p.m.—BSU students and staff will meet in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex parking lot for a lakeshore cleanup.

April 20: Production: “Canopic Jar of My Sins,” 7 p.m.—Black Box Theatre of Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.

April 22: Arts of the Earth Festival, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.—This festival brings together people from across Bemidji’s arts and sustainability communities for an Earth Day celebration. The festival will feature live music, sustainable foods, dancing, hands-on activities and art showcase including musical, poetic, and dance performances. The festival also will include a silent auction that will support the Bemidji Area Food Shelf Garden and the Watermark Art Center’s Birds, Bees, Butterflies, Bemidji project. Location: Beaux Arts Ballroom, upper Hobson Memorial Union. Free admission.

April 22: Production: “Canopic Jar of My Sins,” 4 p.m.—BSU is producing a reading of the Justin Maxwell play “The Canopic Jar of My Sins: A Medieval Morality for Latter-Day Postmodernists.” The play, a dark comedy about culpability, follows Ralph Wiley, the inventor of modern plastic, as he is forced into a show trial adjudicated by a strange angel, a dead bird and Roger Waters. After the trial, Wiley awakens on the beach of Easter Island—where things get strange. Black Box Theatre, Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex. Free admission.

Open auditions for “Canopic Jar of My Sins” will be held April 11-12 at BSU’s Black Box Theatre. Cold-reading material will be provided, and no advance preparation is required. Four substantial roles are available to persons of any gender, age, race or ability status. Rehearsals begin April 13 and participants should be able to participate in all seven rehearsals and both performances. For more information, including ways to participate in the play beyond acting, contact Dr. Season Ellison at (218) 755-3355 or (870) 403-2860 or via email at

April 23: Earth Day Celebration, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.—Bike tune-ups, giveaways and music to celebrate Earth Day. Location: Lower Hobson Memorial Union plaza.

April 23: “An Inconvenient sequel,” 6 p.m.—”An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” is a 2017 documentary about former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s efforts to raise awareness of and combat climate change. A sequel to the 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth,” the film explores the effort to combat climate change and documents Gore’s efforts to persuade world leaders to invest in renewable energy. The film was nominated for Best Documentary by the British Academy Film Awards. Location: Bensen Hall 115. Free admission.

April 28: Litter Clean-up near Buena Vista, 11 a.m.—BSU students and staff will meet near the Buena Vista Ski Area for a day of litter cleanup.

Student senate debate is April 12

BSU’s Student Senate and KBSU-TV 17 will present a live debate between the Senate’s two presidential candidates and their chosen vice-presidential candidates at 5 p.m. on April 12.

There are two president/vice president tickets for the 2018-19 academic year:

• Kale Hennek, a junior in marketing communications, and running mate Rafid Shakkhar, a junior accounting major.

• Connor Newby, a junior in psychology, and running mate Cory Stockman, a junior majoring in physical education and health education.

The debate will be broadcast live on KBSU-TV 17 and will also be streamed live via Facebook. Student Senate will share links to the live stream on its Twitter and Facebook accounts. BSU’s Department of Integrated Media will host a viewing party for the debate in Deputy Hall 262. The viewing party will include a meet-and-greet with the candidates following the debate.

BSU students can participate in the debate by tweeting questions to the candidates.

The live debate is a collaboration between BSU Student Senate and the Department of Integrated Media.

BSU students can vote for president beginning at 10 a.m. April 16 through 11:59 p.m. April 21.