The Auditorium and the Vangstad Twins
In my last column I described VCSU’s first named building, McFarland Hall, and the man behind the name. To continue our look across campus, the next building, built in 1907, is the auditorium, now known as Vangstad Auditorium.
The auditorium had a rocky beginning, as the Legislature appropriated only $40,000 instead of the $60,000 requested. The “Cornerstones” centennial history indicates that they decided to build the auditorium and leave the rest to be completed when future appropriations were available.
The auditorium was finished on the last day of winter term, 1908, and once again, the entire school could meet together for general exercises. The student body at this point numbered about 600. “The Bulletin” reported that “No normal school in the country possesses a handsomer or finer assembly room,” noting its dome, stained glass windows, seating and lighting “excellent.” In the following year, the lower two floors were completed, adding eight new classrooms.
The statues and stained glass windows in the auditorium were purchased with proceeds from a series of entertainments directed by Miss Amidon, one of the seven faculty members in 1907. She and Miss McGregor (English faculty) planned the designs for the windows to the rear of the stage. The window on the left symbolizes music; the one on the right, oratory. The central panels of “Hope” and “St. Cecelia” were selected by Miss Amidon, Miss McGregor, and Mrs. McFarland. Miss Amidon also is responsible for the statue of Apollo to the right of the stage.
In 1971 the auditorium within the building was named Vangstad Auditorium to honor Lena and Thilda Vangstad, long-time faculty at VCSU who retired in 1971. Since then, the building itself has come to be known as Vangstad Auditorium.
Lena and Thilda were twins, born in Osakis, Minn., in 1901. Lena earned a Bachelor of Science in teaching and a Master’s degree at the University of Minnesota; she also did graduate studies at the University of Chicago, the University of California Berkeley, and the University of North Dakota. She came to Valley City State Teacher’s College in 1937 to teach in the Department of Education.
Thilda, born five minutes before her twin sister, taught at Langdon High School (Langdon, N.D.) and Crookston High School (Crookston, Minn.) before joining her sister, Lena, at Valley City State Teachers College in the role of principal of the College Model High School (1945). When the College High School closed, Thilda then became a member of the Social Science Department.
When they retired, the sisters returned to their family home in Osakis. In 2005 they were designated the oldest living pair of twins in the world at the age of 104. Lena died in 2007, and Thilda in 2006 (“The Osakis Review”).
In 2015, the building was renovated to update the basement and first floor, and refresh the paint, ceiling, and plaster in the auditorium. Currently the Business Department offices and classrooms, along with the Learning Center and offices for student academic support, are housed in Vangstad. It continues to be a beautiful building that promotes teaching and learning, a fitting tribute to two women who gave many years of their careers in support of VCSU and our students.