An Homage to the Past With an Eye to the Future

History is not “some faraway land or parallel universe,” President Dr. Faith Hensrud said at Bemidji State University’s Centennial Kickoff Celebration on April 12.

“In fact,” she said, “every day, as we go about our business on this remarkable campus, we are walking in the very footsteps of the generations who came before us.”

Bemidji State’s past was quite present throughout that day, as the university formally launched an 18-month observance. It began its 100th anniversary that began a century after the school’s groundbreaking and will conclude in October 2019.

Events started at 10 a.m. with a “History Walk” reception outside the Main Stage theater in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex. Students, employees and alumni viewed a display of decade-by-decade historical banners, as well as a table full of artifacts ranging from one of those notorious freshman beanies to the first edition of the Northern Student newspaper, from 1929.

The celebration opened at 11 with brief remarks by Hensrud, a student leader and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Trustee Roger Moe, followed by a multimedia extravaganza that alternated a historical video with music and dance performances.

Students in the Blue Ice Jazz Band, the Bemidji Choir and Funtastic Dance Follies troupe took the audience on a tour through time — from the Charleston of the 1920s to the hip-hop of the ’90s. The choir, standing at the rear of the theater, concluded the hourlong event by leading the crowd in the school’s Alma Mater, “On the Shores of Lake Bemidji,” and “The BSU Fight Song.”

The BSU Alumni & Foundation hosted a luncheon at the American Indian Resource Center that included a video interview with Dr. Art Lee, professor emeritus of history, and presentation of Golden Beaver medallions to alums of 50 years or more. BSU presidents emeriti Dr. Jon Quistgaard and
Dr. Jim Bensen were also recognized.

Culminating the kickoff was a ribbon-cutting for Centennial Plaza, the newly renamed expanse between the upper and lower Hobson Memorial Union. Banners on light poles commemorate milestones in university history, including Bemidji’s successful bid as the site of Minnesota’s sixth school for teacher education.

“Without the determination of its proud citizens, Bemidji would not be home to this university,” Hensrud said at the dedication, “because Bemidji Normal School would not have been founded in 1919.”