Alumni Feature: Willie Huot
Willie Huot grew up near Crookston, Minn., and graduated from the Northwest School of Agriculture (NWSA) in 1963. Looking back on his time here, he stated, “My experience at NWSA was a great springboard for the rest of my life.” Huot says Crookston gave him the confidence to go on to new adventures, explore life, take risks, and accept responsibility for his own actions. It showed him that education is a lifelong process which he has learned to appreciate.
Huot has always been driven by his passion for people. When he arrived on campus, he was shy and everything felt new. It was big in his eyes, but he always felt safe. As time went on, he began noticing how involved the faculty were. They went beyond the classroom and helped shape student lives, including his own, by investing in them and helping with school clubs and athletics. Huot played football and served as co-captain of the wrestling team his senior year. He joined cross country his sophomore year and quickly learned it wasn’t his thing.
After his time at the NWSA, Huot went to trade school to learn welding. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in forestry in 1972. He was in the Peace Corps from 1972 to 1975, spending his time in Morocco. This was an incredible experience that opened his eyes to a lot of things and instilled a love for travel. He spent a year traveling around the globe, visiting 23 different countries. His favorite place to visit was Nepal because of the beautiful people and breathtaking scenery. There were about 140 miles of road in the country at that time, which meant he did a lot of backpacking. He met amazing people and heard their stories. After this, he knew he wanted to work with people and decided to get his master’s degree in adult education from the University of Minnesota in 1977. He spent 40 years in cooperative extension services, 15 years in Montana and 25 years in North Dakota. Huot retired in 2016 and quickly became restless and began a new job.
Today he is a shuttle driver for the disabled and elderly citizens in Grand Forks, N.D., serves on the board for the International Crop Expo, and is the NWSA Alumni Board president. He enjoys the connection to the school and learning how it has shaped the lives of those who attended. He is a grandfather of nine, great-grandfather of two, and loves spending time at Maple Lake with his family and friends. Additionally, he goes back to Montana every year to go downhill skiing and visit the mountains.
Huot would like to give a shout out to his classmates of 1963. “I hope you’re all enjoying retirement. Try to attend reunions if possible. It’s a great way to reunite, connect, and share stories. They’re like a family reunion.” Huot also urges people to consider contributing to the NWSA Heritage & Preservation Fund in order to preserve the history of the Aggies as time goes on. He believes the experience students have on campus today could be greatly enriched by providing opportunities to learn about the Northwest School of Agriculture. He hopes students will develop an appreciation for the way the NWSA shaped the lives of students from that era and how it evolved into the premier university it is today. To incoming students, Huot says, “The footprint you create at UMN Crookston will guide the footprints you leave behind as you journey through life. Make the most of your experience here.”
Written for the Spring 2020 Torchlight e-Newsletter.
Top photo: Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause and Willie Huot
Bottom photo: Willie Huot received the Top Aggie Award from the Northwest School of Agriculture in 2013