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Aurora Borealis

MSU-Northern Foundation Magazine | Fall 2020

Contents Letter from the CEO

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Tilleman Field

Page 3

Back in the Classroom

Page 7

Fulfilling our Mission

Page 9

Hard at Work: Erica McKeon-Hanson

Page 11

Shining Bright: Mary Franklin

Page 13

New Board Members

Page 15

Foundation Changes

Page 16

Class Notes


Northern Alumni Foundation


MSU-Northern Foundation


MSU-Northern Athletics




Alumni & Friends, Greetings from our offices in Cowan Hall at the beautiful Montana State University – Northern campus. We send our best wishes to you as we wrap up the calendar year and get ready for a new spring semester. Lee Lounder, our Outreach Coordinator, has been busy compiling great pieces for this edition of the Aurora. You will find a wonderful update on our Tilleman Field (pg 3) ribbon cutting, and an article of what it’s like to deal with the pandemic in the classroom (pg 7). You will also read about Erica McKeonHanson (‘04) (pg 11) who has been charged with leading the MSU-Northern’s COVID-19 response. This fall we also have had the opportunity to onboard three new members of our Board of Trustees (pg 15), and we welcome you to visit our website to see all of our trustees who generously dedicate their time. In addition, you will see an alumnus highlight about Mary Franklin (‘89), whose story is beyond this world unique (pg 13). Amanda Meyer, our CFO, who has put in countless hours both on the finance side and at our events over the years leaves the Foundation to start a new chapter. Meanwhile, we welcome two new staff members, Toni Pedersen as Director of Finance and Darla McCloy as Operations Specialist (pg 16). With the new year and spring just around the corner, we hope that whatever comes your way in 2021, you know that we at the Foundation appreciate your generosity and the many lives that are influenced by your philanthropy. We have all come a long way in 2020 and we should celebrate every victory. We look forward to celebrating with you, in person, in the near future. Warmest Regards, Shantel Cronk Executive Director


Tilleman Field

“This dream has come to life...” Chancellor Greg Kegel On an absurdly snowy day in September of 2019, the MSUNorthern Foundation announced the public launch of its new capital campaign project for MSU-Northern. The goal was to start phase one to build a beautiful new football stadium on campus for the price of three million dollars. At the time of the launch, the campaign was already supported by $1.5 million in private donations and pledges. But to close the gap, we’d need help from the community of Havre, the Hi-Line, and Northern’s vast network of friends and alumni.

Foundation Board of Trustees, Fundraising Committee, and initial donors. (September 2019, Havre Blue Pony Stadium)

For the next twelve months, the campaign committee worked tirelessly to rally support to raise funds for the project. Foundation CEO Shantel Cronk and representatives from MSU-Northern, including Chancellor Kegel, traveled over 1,200 miles to the towns of Scobey, Lewistown, Conrad, Fort Benton, Cut Bank, Malta and Chinook to speak to our friends in those communities. With the intent of playing football on the campus by the fall, we broke ground in March 2020 on the west side of campus with nearly 75% of the funds secured.


Month by month, campus changed dramatically. Despite the pandemic, progress moved swiftly with the help of local construction companies and somewhat mild winter and spring weather. The Foundation regularly updated our website and social media pages with pictures of the project. Neighbors, donors, students, and visitors slowly drove the road behind Hagener Hall to get a good look at the field. The project was a bright spot in a community battling the economic and social challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. All the while, donations never stopped. Support flowed in as the gap to our goal grew smaller and the field came to life. No matter the size, we celebrated each and every gift as we received them. In August, we honored all of the donors who had supported the project and created a Donor Wall on our website. Everyone who wanted to be publicly recognized for their support was added to this virtual wall. The MSUNorthern campus also used the new stadium for a special staff and faculty orientation event, which was planned with the utmost consideration of COVID-19 health regulations. By the first week of fall semester, the field was nearly 100% complete! While there were still finishing touches to put on, Chancellor Greg Kegel went to the Montana Board of Regents to request that the field be named “Tilleman Field” in honor of Mike Tilleman. Mike, an ardent supporter of Northern athletics, was a driving force behind getting football started at Northern again in the ‘90s and along with his family, was a huge contributor to the field. People in our community wrote to support the name, and the Regents passed the measure. The day after this announcement was made, Mike Tilleman passed away. His son Craig Tilleman, who was part of the MSU-Northern Foundation’s Committee for the campaign, said,

“This field will have a positive impact on MSU-Northern campus life, and we are very honored that Mike was honored this way.”


Mike Tilleman was a pillar in our community. He started the Northern Lights Athletic Scholarship Foundation and was instrumental in the successful “Legends for Lights” event and scholarship fundraiser every year. The landscape of MSU-Northern is forever changed. The future potential of Tilleman Field to host concerts, public events, as well as our own home football games will add new life and enthusiasm to this campus. As Chancellor Kegel likes to remind us, “This is more than a field.” To all of our supporters who helped make this project a success, we want to say a sincere and cheerful thank you! We cannot wait to see you in the stands!

The Tilleman Family, pictured from left to right: Suzanne, Crystal, Gloria, Chris, Craig, Wendy, and the late Mike Tilleman (front). (September 2020, at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony)


back in the classroo

Message by Kevin Holzworth Assistant Professor, Automotive Technology Dear Alumni, Boy, what a year it has been! Back in March, we had one week (during spring break) to prepare for a 6-week stint of remote learning. Teaching online was a true test of our abilities. We did our best to continue to provide our students with the best education we could give them. Many faculty found that this was an opportunity to experiment with a few different assessment strategies that would have otherwise been on the back burner. For the most part, students really respected the process and did quite well given the circumstances. And after speaking with many undergraduates this fall, they appreciated how hard we all worked to give them the best education possible.


I can speak for everyone in our college by saying how thankful we are to teach in-person again. The interactions, conversations, instruction, and practice are all things we love about teaching. Our students come first, I don’t care who you are. Education is our number one priority at Northern and having them back on campus has made us work even harder to keep them safe and help them to reach their academic goals. -Prof. Kevin Holzworth


Pictured: automotive, Diesel, and ag mechanics students from all academic levels

Message by Joshua Meyer Associate Professor, Automotive and Diesel Technology Dear Friends and Alums, Instruction on campus amidst COVID-19 has been a unique experience for everyone involved. The biggest change is wearing protective face coverings and the challenges they pose. At the beginning of the semester, faculty and staff were often reminding students to mask up throughout the day. As the semester has progressed, wearing the mask became part of their normal routine and we settled into a new normal. Overall, these changes have required adaptation on everyone’s part. Maintaining the in-person classroom educational experience is the #1 priority of faculty, staff, and students in the COTS programs at Northern. There is just no substitution for in-person learning, especially for hands on trades programs. Our students proved to be resilient and adaptable, despite the challanges. While the new classroom requirements can take some getting used to, they provide us a means to maintain supremely effective instruction. Our campus community came together and we were able to continue in-person learning the entire semester. -Prof. Joshua Meyer




FY2020 FY2019




$ 3,206,108






Excellence Fund Scholarships Other


Athletics 3%


63% 30%

Average # of Donors


Our donors are generous

become a donor! Our donors are generous, supportive, and proud of msu-northern. every gift makes a difference, no matter the size. Use the enclosed envelope to mail us your donation. thank you for supporting us, the students, staff,and faculty at msu-northern. your gifts to the excellence fund help us Plan special events, fulfill student needs, and expand our capabilities. you help us grow in our mission to support the university’s goals.

“Erica has been exceptional in her leadership of the institution’s efforts to understand and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Corey Kopp, Dean of Students

Hard at work Professor. Director of the Little River Institute. Community representative. Alumna. Erica McKeon-Hanson (‘04) embodies the Northern spirit – she’s tough, dedicated, and passionate about her community. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Erica has been working hard as a member of the Hill County Board of Health to help develop safety measures to mitigate the impact of the virus. She is also key to managing the virus on this campus. At the beginning of the pandemic, Chancellor Greg Kegel made her MSU-Northern’s Public Health Officer and put her on the COVID-19 Leadership Team for the campus. The Leadership Team was appointed by the Chancellor and given two main goals for the fall: safety and quality. He wanted classes to be as safe as possible while still delivering a high-quality education. Erica believes they have done that.

“I’ve been really impressed with how the University rose to the occasion. I feel good about walking on campus and into classrooms – everyone has taken it seriously.” - Erica McKeon-Hanson


Drawing on her Master’s in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, her leadership has helped make sure that everyone’s needs are met on this campus. Although Fall semester has been intense for everyone due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Hill County, the safety measures established in the summer have helped maintain a safe environment for classes to continue face-to-face learning. For Erica and everyone involved with COVID-19 response, their work never stops. They are “on” every day of the week, all hours of the day, keeping campus safe throughout this rapidly changing health crisis. A member of the Hill County Board of Health, Erica also works together with commissioners and others on the board to plan an informed response to COVID-19 for the county. On top of that, she is still the project director for the Little River Institute at Northern. This grant-funded program focuses on increasing Native American student retention and engagement. After four years of the grant, Northern saw the retention rate of Native American students jump to 86% from the previous figure, 57%. MSU-Northern is truly lucky to have such a dedicated alum and employee. Erica said that she’s been proud to see how resilient everyone has been, but especially the students and how adaptable our community is to the new strategies her team has helped develop.

Erica speaking at the Little River Institute’s reopening after renovations (September 2019)

“Follow what you love, but then do the work. And don’t be a jerk.”

Mary Franklin, Class of 1989

shining bright

At 26, Mary Franklin came to Northern from the ranch she worked on just south of Havre to enroll in classes. This was in the mid-80s, pre-internet, when enrolling meant standing in line for hours and often being sent to other lines to wait some more. For someone who’d been used to a life of few people and wide-open spaces, she found it to be claustrophobic. Right before she was ready to give up and head out, she was told to see Dr. Roger Barber, now retired, who was a Professor in the Business Administration program.

“He was always a mentor, all the years I was there,” Mary said. “He is the reason I stayed in school.” Northern has always been a place for nontraditional studentsstudents who arrive with a wide array of tools, backgrounds, and dreams. Mary’s dream was rooted in adventure. She and her husband, Kevin Holmes (also a Northern grad), traveled to Alaska in the summers to work on fishing boats. Tragically, the summer after graduation, Holmes was in a fatal boat accident. After her husband’s passing, she stayed in Alaska and started her own fitness business. Mary had cultivated a love for competition and athletics while studying business at Northern. She continued to explore wild places, going so far as to briefly work in Antarctica wrangling penguins for a research team. On top of all that, Mary also ran a popular online Star Wars fan club.



Mary in Tokyo

This was in the early days of the internet and it was a oneof-a-kind community. Unbeknownst to Mary and the group, Lucasfilm was planning to release the Star Wars prequels. Their team took an interest in Mary’s online Star Wars fan club and reached out to her. “They were especially fascinated because this was a fan group with a lot of women,” she said. Mary helped them understand what Star Wars fans were interested in and, two years later, she landed herself a job with Lucasfilm and made the move to California. There she worked to help produce the Star Wars Celebration, a massive fan convention that has been going on for over 20 years. She was catapulted out of Alaska and into the pop culture world. But her life is still wild, just in a different way. She gets to meet people from all over the world - actors, creators, entertainers, and fans. Mary’s always been drawn to do what she’s passionate about. Her advice, “Follow what you love, but then do the work. And don’t be a jerk. You might be doing what you love, but if you’re not working hard or you’re a jerk, you won’t be successful.” Her career earned her a Founder’s Excellence Award from the MSU-Northern Foundation in 2008. Mary is still in contact with Dr. Barber, her mentor when she was a student. She is now Head of Events for Crunchyroll. We are proud that she continues to share her light with the world as an alumna of Northern.


new board members This October we onboarded two new board members and one new board member who is returning to serve with us again! Our Board of Trustees plays a huge role in the success of the Foundation’s mission, and we are grateful to all of them for their time and dedication to our work.

Jodi Korb - Class of ‘87

Jodi Korb graduated from Northern Montana College and married her high school sweetheart, Dan Korb (‘88), in 1987. She is the office manager for Korb Construction and is also a Registered Nurse. She is excited to return to the Foundation board after a year as an ex-officio. In her free time, Jodi is involved with the Eagle Creek Ski Patrol and she is a member of P.E.O Chapter AZ.

Kristi peterson

Kristi is currently the Deposit Relations Officer at Independence Bank in Havre. She hails from Malta, MT and worked at Northern for five years as the Director of Admissions and Recruitment. Kristi’s excited to be part of enhancing the college experience and be involved with Northern once again.

Pete stiffarm - Class of ‘09

Pete is the Director of IT Infrastructure at Plain Green, LLC in Box Elder. He has always been involved in the local community, serving on the Bullhook Health Center’s Board of Directors and coaching youth basketball. He is a member of the Gros Ventre and he’s excited to contribute toward the Foundation’s mission.

Jodi Korb, ‘87

Kristi Peterson

Pete Stiffarm, ‘09

Foundation changes Welcome Toni and Darla! Toni Pedersen (‘97), joins the team as the new Director of Finance. She comes to us with 20 years of financial experience, most recently working for Andersen ZurMuehlen & Co. in Havre. She is originally from Wolf Point, MT and is excited to bring her positive energy and experience to the Foundation. When she is not hard at work on the books, she enjoys camping and traveling with her boyfriend Joe. Darla McCloy, originally from Circle, MT, comes to us from the MSUBillings Business Department. She will be our new Operations Specialist, a role that encompasses data management, bookkeeping, and administrative tasks. Darla has one daughter, Amanda, and enjoys spending time with family, her dog Bella and her cat Tuxedo. She also enjoys crafting!

Thank you, amanda This Fall, our CFO Amanda Meyer left the Foundation to pursue other ventures. Amanda worked at MSU-Northern’s Business Office for two years before coming to the Foundation, where she had been for five years. We want to offer Amanda our sincere gratitude for all of her work at Northern and the Foundation and wish her the best going forward!


class notes The Northern Alumni Foundation would like to say congratulations to the two alumni couples celebrating their anniversaries! We wish you many more happy celebrations to come!

A Diamond Anniversary Hugo Andersen, Jr. (‘62) and Bonnie (Stringer) Andersen (‘73) celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on June 17, 2020. They married in the Lutheran Church in Medicine Lake, MT. The couple has two daughters and two sons-inlaw: Penny and Larry Cunha, Rocklin, CA; and Pamela and Kurt Shulund, Havre, MT; and one grandchild: Zachary Cunha, Minot, ND. Following careers in education, Hugo and Bonnie retired from the Havre Public Schools, Havre, MT in 1987, and moved to their home on the Missouri River south of Cascade, MT. Hugo is a member of the Cascade Lions Club. Bonnie enjoys gardening, quilting, playing card games, and the Dearborn Garden Club. Hugo enjoys his shop and 1950 Chevrolet pickup which he showed at many car shows. He is currently street rodding a 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door hard top. They both enjoy the Friday Nite Club which they were invited to join 35 years ago.


The Young’s Celebrate Golden Wedding Anniversary Doyle and Jackie Hashbarger Young, both from the Kalispell/ Whitefish area, celebrated their 50th Anniversary this year. They both studied secondary education at Northern and graduated in 1973. After college, they taught in schools in Roswell, New Mexico. Doyle later worked for the United States Postal Service as a carrier, supervisor and finally as Post Master at Elida and Melrose, New Mexico. Jackie played Basketball for NMC in 1972 when the program was just starting. She has participated in Senior Olympics for many years and has held New Mexico state records in shot put and discus. They have 3 sons and 13 grandchildren.

COVID Can’t Stop the Music Dr. Gary Funk (‘66), composer, voice teacher and retired University of Montana Professor of Music, has made good use of his COVID-19 isolation period by publishing three books, an opera, two musicals and seven songbooks including his most recent publication: “Songs of the Pandemic: A Song Cycle for Medium High Voice and Piano.” All of his publications are available for purchase at amazon.com. For more information, go to: www.drgaryfunk.com.


Happy Holidays from all of us at the Foundation!


Northern Alumni Foundation


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Aurora Borealis Fall 2020  

Read the Northern Alumni Foundation's Fall magazine!

Aurora Borealis Fall 2020  

Read the Northern Alumni Foundation's Fall magazine!