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President's Desk

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Jul 30, 2018

In my last column, I described two buildings (Graichen Gymnasium—1923, and McCarthy—1930), which were constructed while Dr. Carlos E. Allen was president, from 1918–1936. President Allen received his B.A. from Carleton College (Northfield, Minn.) in 1894, and his master’s and doctorate in ancient languages from University of Chicago. He was the head of foreign languages at the Normal School in Carbondale, Ill., for 20 years before accepting the presidency at Valley City State Normal (VCSN) in 1918.

In 1921, under his leadership, VCSN became the first normal school in the state to offer four-year (bachelor’s) degrees, becoming the first state teacher’s college (VCSTC) in North Dakota. And as Dr. Welch writes in “Cornerstones,” “nothing would ever be the same.” Building projects, programs, and enrollment burgeoned.

Over a number of biennia, President Allen repeatedly requested funding for a library, without success. Sixteen years after Allen’s retirement, after the Great Depression and W.W. II, President Lokken was successful in his request for a new library building. Funding was appropriated in 1949 and 1951; the building was started in 1951 and dedicated in 1952. The building was named Allen Memorial Library in tribute to President Allen’s many productive years shaping VCSTC as a reputable institution of higher education.

In 1963, VCSU saw the addition of a new music building, Foss Hall, named to honor P.L. Foss, former state senator and longtime Valley City businessman.

A decade later, Rhoades Science Center opened in 1973. This building contained the first planetarium in the state, and it was also the first structure on the VCSU campus to have a million-dollar price tag. It replaced the “old science building” behind McFarland, which was condemned in the mid-’70s, but not razed until 2014.

In 1977, the building was named Rhoades Science Center in honor of L.D. “Dusty” Rhoades, a long-time chemistry and physics professor from 1919–1961. In 2013, Rhoades Science Center received a facelift and an addition, providing additional laboratory space and office areas for the growing STEM and science programs at VCSU.

Of course, there are other named buildings on campus—five dormitories (all named for faculty members: McCoy, Robertson, Kolstoe, Mythaler, and Snoeyenbos) and the W.E. Osmon Fieldhouse, built in 1961 and named in 1983 to honor Bill Osmon, longtime basketball coach, chair of the Division of Health and Physical Education, and athletic director, who retired in 1982.

During the 45 years that followed this growth of physical facilities at VCSU, the campus has grown in other ways, adding graduate programs, establishing itself as a laptop campus and a leader in educational technology, and developing quality online programs. Our ability to look forward and seek continuous improvement is based on the work of our predecessors, the “giants” whose names designate the buildings in which we work: the early presidents who provided a solid foundation for campus programs, and the long-serving faculty who shaped so many student lives and careers. As Isaac Newton wrote (about his own achievements), we are able to see further ahead because we are “standing on the shoulders of giants,” and we are grateful for the many ways they worked to establish the campus we have today.