In Dickinson, those who donate to the university and its students are held in high esteem. Without them, many programs and opportunities would not exist to help the university meet its mission and vision.
Endowments made through various DSU Heritage Foundation programs enable the university to create and maintain excellence in academics beyond that which is accomplished strictly through state funding.
Endowments support scholarships, provide faculty teaching and research support, enhance academic and/or program support like named centers, institutes, departments or colleges and assure unrestricted support to address new and emerging strategic priorities.
The foundation currently manages more than $25 million in endowments, providing $1.4 million annually in scholarships to more than 700 students.
Without donors, this would not be possible. As a way of thanking donors, the foundation hosted a public event featuring pioneering aviator and Dickinson State graduate Art Mortvedt on Aug. 16 in the Beck Auditorium at the Biesiot Activity Center.
Mortvedt shared more details of his adventures in Alaska and beyond at an evening invitation-only event for Dickinson State supporters and friends at the Biesiot Activity Center.
DSU graduate and former Bismarck orthodontist Brian Jesperson was instrumental in bringing the adventurer back to the state to share his story. “Fifteen or 20 years ago, I went to hear this speaker from Alaska and I was totally intrigued,” Jesperson said. “I kept his business card in my office.”
When Jesperson retired and cleaned out his office, he found the card and asked Mortvedt to come speak in his home state. “We kinda hit it off,” Jesperson said.
Mortvedt is a Stanton native and graduate of Dickinson State with degrees in math and chemistry. But he is best known in aviation circles for being the only pilot to fly the same single-engine airplane over the North and South poles. The “Polar Pumpkin” carried gear to conduct scientific experiments over the North Pole.
He now lives in interior Alaska, 200 miles from the nearest road and 40 miles from his closest neighbor and accessible by float plane only. Yet he’s coming back to Dickinson State for a second time to share his story with the “fabulous people of North Dakota.”
“And the wonderful wide-open countryside of North Dakota and the sound of meadowlarks, and this year the greenness of the place,” Mortvedt added. “This year, what I want to share is some information on a couple flights I made in an airplane called the Polar Pumpkin. As far as I know, it’s the only plane in the world of its type that’s been flown solo by the same pilot to both poles.”
The programs are a way for the Heritage Foundation to thank donors who help it achieve its mission of providing “high-quality, accessible programs; to promote excellence in teaching and learning; to support scholarly and creative activities; and to provide service relevant to the economy, health, and quality of life for the citizens of the State of North Dakota. Dickinson State University will educate a diverse population through innovative teaching, learning, scholarship, and service fostering responsible citizens who impact the world.”
Mortvedt’s impact began in 1974 when he completed his first adventure – driving a Volkswagen “bug” to Alaska in January 1974 and getting a teaching job in “the bush.” He chose the most remote village he could find and settled in. “I enjoyed it very much and started flying and guiding and it’s worked out very well,” Mortvedt said.
Following his polar exploits, Mortvedt received the Golden Hawk Award. The Polar Pumpkin, meanwhile, is on display at the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot.
Even though he prefers to live miles from anyone else in Alaska, Mortvedt said he enjoys coming back to North Dakota for several reasons.
“The wholesome attitude, the hospitality and trust is something I appreciate very much, and going back to my roots here,” Mortvedt said. “As I’ve said for many years, North Dakota and states like it are the glue that holds the country together.”