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Around Campus, Fall 2011

Brian Knochenmus ’00 Inspires Freshmen Class

SMSU freshmen heard keynote speaker Brian Knochenmus tell them to embrace the academic challenges they will face during Convocation 2011, held during Gold Rush Days in August.

Knochenmus is Vice President of Ralco Nutrition, Inc., a growing animal health and nutrition company based in Marshall. The 2000 SMSU alumnus has worked for the company in various capacities since 1992, and served as vice president since 2004. Since then, under the leadership of Brian and his father, company president Jon Knochenmus, Ralco has quadrupled both its sales, and jobs in the past seven years.

Knochenmus told the students that the importance of the liberal arts education they receive at SMSU will become increasingly apparent as they get older, and urged them to “learn how to learn.”

“Knowledge is a basis for action,” said Knochenmus, who went on to humorously, and earnestly, tell the students that they will learn so much, and change so much, in the next four years, and during that time, they will be responsible for making the right choices along the way.

Knochenmus grew up in Balaton, Minn., and attended Tracy High School. His grandparents, Bob and Lou Galbraith, started Ralco in 1971.

Knochenmus has embraced the technology of his business, and Ralco is a big supporter of SMSU and both its Agribusiness Management and Agronomy programs. “Agriculture is an important industry for this region,” he said. “Within 40 years, we are going to have to produce twice the amount of food we do today to feed the population. Education is a big part of that.”

Gold Rush Days, coordinated by the Office of Admission, are held each year to acclimate incoming freshmen to college life, both academically and socially. Activities are planned to help students to get to know the campus and their fellow classmates.

McFarland Library Dedicated

Former SMSU President Dr. David Danahar joked that the late D.C. “Pat” McFarland, Jr. would call him on occasion to give him advice or comment on a decision Danahar had made. “He was very direct, and I appreciated that,” said Danahar during his remarks on June 27, when the university library was renamed the McFarland Library.

It is renamed to honor the memory of SMSU supporters Dorothy and Pat McFarland. McFarland died on March 31, 2010. The Marshall area property developer founded the McFarland Company in 1954, and he worked there until his passing at the age of 91.

He was a supporter of education and the arts in the Marshall area during his lifetime. McFarland gifted $2 million to the university in support of student scholarships and library resources upon his passing.

His two sisters, Ruth Byers Ahlstrom, Urbandale, Iowa, and Kathleen Brown, Chaska, Minn., were on hand for the ceremony.

“Pat and Dorothy were a special couple, they really devoted their lives to others and I know he’d be pleased with this honor,” said Ahlstrom.

Danahar told several stories about his relationship with McFarland and would later say that he and the longtime businessman “became very good friends over the years.”

The ceremony was held in front of the library entrance and drew university personnel and others from the region.

Results of MnSCU Study Released

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ (MnSCU) Higher Education Needs of Southwest Minnesota Study brought forth
several recommendations when it was released in early July.

The study was conducted by MGT of America, a higher education consulting firm, at the request of outgoing MnSCU Chancellor James H. McCormick.  The study concludes that SMSU and Minnesota West Community and Technical College should collaborate on offering more applied academic programs to help attract and retain a skilled and educated workforce in the 19-county region. It stopped short of recommending that SMSU and Minnesota West align under one president, which has occurred elsewhere within the MnSCU system, but did note that an alignment of the two may be
appropriate at a later date.

The study was undertaken following the announcement of the retirement of former SMSU President Dr. David Danahar, who retired June 30. When a president retires, said McCormick, it is not uncommon for such a study to be undertaken, noting that given the economic times, efficiencies
can be found to save taxpayer money.

McCormick came to campus July 8 to discuss the study’s findings. The study recommends that:

  • Baccalaureate programs be expanded beyond the Marshall campus to more locations in the region and the curriculum mix should gradually be rebalanced;
  • Participation and partnerships in economic develop initiatives, cultural and civic events be strengthened, and collaboration in specialty areas of research be encouraged by providing technical expertise;
  • SMSU move toward sharing operational and support functions with Minnesota West Community and Technical College, which has campuses in Jackson, Worthington, Pipestone, Canby and Granite Falls, and other system institutions.

SMSU interim President Dr. Ron Wood was previously president of MnWest for 10 years.

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