News Release

UMN Crookston to Host Alumni Awards Celebration Friday

By Shawn Smith, University Relations on
Wednesday, October 20, 2021

CROOKSTON, Minn. - The University of Minnesota Crookston will recognize the achievements of its exceptional alumni during the annual Alumni Awards Celebration. The recognition will take place on Friday, October 22, 2021 in Bede Ballroom, Sargeant Student Center. A social begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the recognition program. Contact Angelika Huglen for reservations at ahuglen@umn.edu or calling 218-281-8401.

Alumni honored during this year’s Alumni Awards Celebration include Abbey Award recipient: Marshall Johnson 2012. Outstanding Alumni for 2021 are Dave Currier 1974, Mike Gasper 1978, and Mandy Uhrich 2005. Athletic Hall of Fame inductees include Jim Mages 2001, Jeanette (Stoker) Larson 1987, and Cleon Melsa, faculty athletic representative from 2004-2012. To view all homecoming events, visit umcrookston.edu/homecoming

Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees

Jeanette (Stoker) Larson is a 1987 graduate of the University of Minnesota Crookston. She competed for the Trojan volleyball team during the 1986 and 1987 seasons. Her play on the court as a freshman in 1986 earned her First Team All-Northwest Division accolades. She helped lead the Trojans to a fifth place finish in the State Tourney during the 1986 season. As a sophomore, she had a 92 percent serve percentage and tallied 176 kills. For her career, she notched 146 blocks and 671 assists which ranked top all-time in the NJCAA era.

Larson currently resides in Lake Park, Minn., with her husband Bill. She has two children Kal and Elsa. She is currently retired after previously running a yoga studio in the Cormorant Lakes area. Larson currently serves as a board member at Sunnyside Skilled Care Facility.

Jim Mages is a 2001 graduate in plant industries management from the University of Minnesota Crookston. He remains the all-time leader in career tackles for loss for the football team to this day with 35 and season tackles for loss with 21 during the 2000 season. Mages was an Honorable Mention All-NSIC pick as a defensive end in 1999 and an All-NSIC First Team pick at defensive end in 2000. He had 10 sacks in a season during the 1999 slate and 48 in 2000. Mages led the football team with 47.5 tackles in 1999 and 48 during the 2000 team. He had two forced fumbles and three blocked kicks for the Golden Eagles. Mages transferred to UMN Crookston from Rochester Community and Technical College prior to his junior season.

Mages lives in Osakis, Minn., with his wife Tricia. They have children Brady, Grant, Kyle, and Stephanie. He currently works as a sales agronomist at Nutrien in Sauk Centre, Minn. Mages serves on the Vision Board for First Lutheran Church and is involved with Knights of Columbus. He and his wife also own and manage the Mages family farm in Paynesville.

Cleon Melsa was instrumental to the UMN Crookston athletics department serving as Faculty Athletic Representative from 2004-12. Melsa was the liaison between athletics and the academic departments, helping students with eligibility and success in the classroom. He also remained an avid supporter of Golden Eagle athletics after his retirement and until his passing in 2021, attending countless athletic events and serving as a UMC Teambacker.

Melsa received his bachelor of science from the University of Iowa in 1964. He went on to do graduate course work at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa while teaching high school sciences at Northeast Hamilton High School in Blairsburg, Iowa. Melsa then went to the University of North Dakota, where he received a master of science degree in teaching in 1969, then going directly into the doctoral program, received his Ph.D. from UND in inorganic chemistry in 1973. Melsa was an assistant professor in the Math, Science, and Technology department at UMN Crookston. During his time, he also helped start a science club on campus and judged many events at the annual science fairs on campus. While at UMN Crookston, Melsa also did research work for Argon National Laboratories in Chicago, Ill. He and his wife, Jeri, have sons Jeff (Shari), Brent (Jasmine), and Ryan (Ashley),grandchildren Kali, Kelsey, Emi, Keane, Blake, and Bladen, and a great granddaughter Mae.

Outstanding Alumni

Dave Currier started Dakota Fence Company in 1972, with his brother Dan and his father Dick. They grew their family business from their garage, eventually growing to the point where they opened a building in Fargo, N.D., followed by stores in Bismarck, Williston, and Minot. The company later looked to diversify, which led to the creation of 3D Specialties, Inc., which sells, installs and rents traffic control equipment and road signs. The company also diversified with Dakota Playground, a provider of playground equipment and other park and recreation products. Dakota Fence Company has been one of the largest providers in the region for quality fencing, playgrounds, and sign products for more than 40 years. Currier is now retired from the family business he helped start. He received his two-year degree from UMC in 1974 in sales marketing.

Currier is an avid international sportsman, hunting wild mountain sheep all over the world. He also has a deep passion for collecting and racing antique motorcycles. He recently won the 2021 Motorcycle Cannonball race on a 1911 Harley Davidson single-belt drive. Currier was inducted into the Fargo North High School Hall of Fame in 2005. He resides in Fargo, N.D., with his wife Kay. They have adult children Joe, John, and Amy.  

Mike Gasper started Gasper Air Spray, Inc. in 1980 with his wife Connie. The business had a single plane at the time and has developed into a multiple aircraft operation, dedicated to the aerial application industry. Gasper has a deep passion for the business stemming from his love of agriculture and farming. He has also owned M&M Farms since 1985 and has served as CEO for Lake Agassiz Bean, LLC. Gasper studied agricultural aviation from 1975-1977.

Gasper learned the importance of teamwork through his time at UMN Crookston and has instilled it in my family and employees. He has been married to his wife Connie for 43 years. They have adult children Crystal Maruska (Adam), Joel Gasper (Tiffany), and Danielle Carlson (Gabe). Gasper is a past director of National Ag Aviation and a past president of Minnesota Ag Aviation. He coached in the Crookston hockey program for 10 years and has been the North Director for the Minnesota Super Series for 20 years.

He was a 2006 inductee into the UMN Crookston Athletic Hall of Fame. 

Mandy Uhrich is currently the fish and wildlife habitat program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. She works with the DNR accelerated prairie, forest and wetland management Outdoor Heritage Fund awards and assists the fisheries staff statewide on AMA enhancement projects and contract administration. Uhrich also develops program policy and procedures, plans, coordinates, administers, and monitors habitat enhancement contracts and provides technical assistance to area, regional, state program staff and conservation partners. She provides the northeast and southeast wildlife regional budget management and oversight to ensure program funding sources are properly expended per Minnesota statutes and department policies. In her role, Uhrich coordinates with area staff in preparing habitat restoration and facility development projects for new land acquisitions using the Initial Development Plan (IDP) process. She currently manages eight appropriations totaling more than $7.6 million. Uhrich earned her degree in 2005 from UMN Crookston in natural resource management and played soccer and softball.

Uhrich resides in Brainerd, Minn., with her yellow lab Cumara, her West Highland Terrier, Lucy Lu, and her Jack Russell mix Tucker. She has traveled the last 19 years professionally for the outdoor industry from the northern reaches of Ontario to the southern tip of Mexico in search of her next fishing or hunting adventure. Uhrich also donates over 200 hours a year to non-profit organizations, teaching, speaking, fundraising, guiding, and radio and TV appearances. She is also an accomplished tournament angler, fishing 20 to 30 tournaments a year in multiple circuits and leagues. In the past nine years, she has had 107 top-five finishes and won 46 tournaments. 

 

The Abbey – Young Alumni Award

Marshall Johnson is the 2021 recipient of the Abbey Award. He is a 2012 graduate of UMN Crookston with a degree in business management. Johnson currently serves as the chief conservation officer for the National Audubon Society. He started at the National Audubon Society in 2009 as a climate field organizer for the D.C. policy team. Since 2012, Johnson has served as Vice President, Executive Director of Audubon Dakota and has thrived in building a mission-moored, highly impactful team and state program. Through his leadership, Audubon Dakota has raised and leveraged more than $50 million from individuals, partners, foundation, and agency funders. Beginning in 2018, the Audubon Dakota team raised their sights and ambition, spearheading the development and launch of the Northern Great Plains Grasslands strategy, which has conserved nearly 500,000 acres across North and South Dakota, enrolling over 300 farmers, ranchers, and communities within its programs.

Johnson and his partner, Meleah LaPlant,e have two dogs Grant and Mela. He is the board president for the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust. Johnson received the North Dakota Habitat Award presented by the Wildlife Society.

About UMN Crookston

One of five campuses in the University of Minnesota System, the University of Minnesota Crookston cultivates curiosity by engaging students in hands-on learning connecting theory to practice. As the experienced leader in delivering education online, the Crookston campus offers a distinctive learning environment providing personal attention and mentorship to develop leaders, lifelong learners, and engaged citizens. Visit Crookston at c.umn.edu  

About UMN

The University of Minnesota System, with campuses in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester, and the Twin Cities, is driven by a singular vision of excellence. We are proud of our land-grant mission of world-class education, groundbreaking research, and community-engaged outreach, and we are unified in our drive to serve Minnesota. Learn more at system.umn.edu

 

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