Bemidji State University’s Distinguished Minnesotan Award

Bemidji State University’s 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 delivers Bemidji State’s commencement address.

Nature writer Sigurd Olson (1899-1982) received BSU’s first Distinguished Minnesotan award from President Rebecca Stafford in 1981. Olson was instrumental in the creation of the protection of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters area and he helped establish the state’s Voyageur’s National Park.

There have been 38 Distinguished Minnesotans in the 36 years the honor has been awarded. The award was presented annually from 1981–2009 and was not awarded in 2010 or 2012. Two persons were honored in both 2007 and 2016.

Recipients of Bemidji State University’s Distinguished Minnesotan award

Listed in reverse chronological order

2019
Alan Page
Retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and Minnesota Vikings Defensive Lineman

2018
author

2017
Minnesota Supreme Court justice

2016
philanthropist
and
philanthropist

2015
president & CEO, American Public Media

2014
CEO, Carlson Companies

2013
senior military assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense

2012
no award given

2011
president, Marvin Windows & Doors

2010
no award given

2009
television anchor

2008
vice president for community affairs, 3M

2007
Paul Wellstone
U.S. Senator
and
Sheila Wellstone
advocate against domestic abuse

2006
Kathleen Blatz
Chief Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court

2005
Gerald Vizenor
author, educator

2004
Herb Brooks
men’s ice hockey coach

2003
Edgar Heteen
entrepreneur, snowmobile pioneer

2002
Rosalie Wahl
Minnesota Supreme Court justice

2001
Libby Larsen
composer

2000
Jon Hassler
author, educator

1999
Coya Knutson
congresswoman

1998
Bob Bergland
congressman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

1997
Ann Bancroft
explorer of North & South poles

1996
Jerry Willet
businessman, former state senator

1995
William H. Kling
public radio innovator

1994
Cheryl Dickson
leader in humanities programming

1993
Nellie Stone Johnson
political & social activist

1992
Veda Ponikvar
newspaper publisher

1991
Meridel LeSueur
writer, social activist

1990
William S. Marvin
businessman, community leader

1989
Curtis L. Carlson
businessman, philanthropist

1988
Elmer L. Andersen
businessman, former governor

1987
Muriel Buck Humphrey Brown
advocate for the disadvantaged

1986
Dr. Harlan Cleveland
political scientist

1985
Dr. John Najarian
transplant surgeon

1984
Frederick F. Manfred
author

1983
Janet Dearholt Esty
businesswoman, entrepreneur

1982
Karl Kassulke
athlete, handicap advocate

1981
Sigurd Olson
naturalist and author