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Still Special After All These Years

Oct. 14, 2003 8:16 AM | Updated: Aug. 10th, 2004 1:34 PM
I have met only one person who did not know Isabel McLaren. Now he knows her, too. I’ve known her for 30 years, myself. She was my daughter’s kindergarten teacher in Fargo, and she was perfect for it. She is not a whole lot bigger than the kids, just as energetic, even more eager, and ever so much fun. Two generations of children seem to have charged her batteries for the two decades since she retired, and then some. Those years and her inimitable style endear her to hundreds of kids and families throughout the region and beyond.

Isabel grew up here, learned to teach at her beloved VCSU, and returned here often over the years. We were especially pleased that she came back for Homecoming, attending one event after another with Sharon Buhr or Carol Nelson as her escort. She had decided, as usual, to enjoy every minute.

At one point, Isabel rose to say a few words about what VCSU and teaching had meant to her. When she finished, the man across the table sat staring, mesmerized. He is the one who had not met her before. Slowly he smiled, breaking his trance, and said, "I never heard anything like that before. I wanted to say, öyes, ma’am.’"

Homecoming had a number of special moments like that. Ed Stern, who attended in 1935, came back from Fargo, too, with his son Rick. Ed’s father funded Straus Clothiers here decades ago. His parents sent him to UND at first, but he transferred back here for a year. Seems a lovely girl (whom he later married) had something to do with it. The folks sent him to a prominent Pennsylvania university to graduate. Ed said he worried whether his North Dakota credits would transfer. As it turned out, his one accounting class from VCSU was so good that Ed tested out of two classes in Pennsylvania. VCSU’s reputation for great faculty echoes through every decade of its existence.

Pete Hughes was back, too " class of 1981. He had never seen anything like our state until he made the long, long drive from Maryland, crossing state after state and entering North Dakota in a March winter storm. He came here to play football and had been told to go to the Bubble when he got to town. He found it, but he could not imagine what all those horse trailers and cowboys were about. A Winter Show attendant kindly sent him down the hill, where he played and studied well all the way through graduation. We celebrated his induction into the athletic Hall of Fame last week, as well as the successful coaching and education career he is pursuing back in his home state.

Another special feature of Homecoming is the effort people make to be here. Sy Siewert takes the cake for that, coming back from California every year but one since 1988. More people every year decide to return often, not just for a specific reunion. Thanks very much to the many hard-working folks who produced a wonderful series of events for us all to enjoy!
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