The Boundary Waters and Ely have meant a great deal to me.   In 1992, I spent six months as a volunteer wilderness ranger in the BWCA.  I spent 100 days in the woods that year, took 22 different canoe trips, saw nearly 300 lakes and cleaned more than 400 campsites.  I saw first hand how many up there lived, on the edge of the wilderness and frequently on the edge of poverty to stay in this area.  Even in good economies, many are fortunate to survive at minimum wage jobs that are seasonal.  These scholarships at VCC I’ve established or contributed to mean a great deal to my wife and me, for the reasons mentioned above, but also because Sig Olson was Dean from 1935-1947, when the school was known as Ely Junior College.

In 2010, I had a special day.  I arrived in Ely seven hours before the banquet, rented a canoe, and paddled 11 miles up and back from Pipestone Falls on a perfect day, alone, seeing eagles, mergansers and a loon.   I ended up paddling about 11 miles then returned the canoe, changed clothes completely, and presented four scholarships: the Michael and Janice Smith, the Friends of the Boundary Waters, and the Brekke-Langhorst to two recipients

MICHAEL AND JANICE SMITH SCHOLARSHIP – $1,000 award – to a student who will be new to VCC in the fall of 2009 or continuing at VCC in the fall of 2009 and studying environmental or wilderness coursework leading to a career in one of those fields.

Past Winners:

2006–Kelly Bray

2007–Wendy Forss (Kelly and Wendy pictured below)


2008–Katherine Hagsten

2009–Matthew Chopp

2010–Mara Brogan

Mara Brogan

2012–Nathan Kluge

Nathan Kluge, 2012











As a member of the Friends of the Boundary Waters, I thought the organization should sponsor a scholarship.  I was willing to put my money where my mouth is and the Friends did the rest.  My thanks to Paul Danicic and Greg Seitz, whom I met in Minneapolis the morning after the banquet, for their thoughts and idea that we should have the members contribute a little more annually in hopes of establishing a second scholarship.  Sig Olson once wrote that wilderness travelers craved “the fierce satisfaction that comes only with hardship.”  But as Dean, he would not have wanted such hardship to be part of getting an education.  Putting two Minnesota organizations together–the Friends and the VCC Foundation–to create this scholarship was one of the better ideas I’ve had.

FRIENDS OF THE BOUNDARY WATERS WILDERNESS SCHOLARSHIP – $500 award – to a student who will be new to VCC in the fall of 2009 or continuing at VCC in the fall of 2009 studying environmental or wilderness coursework.  From 2012 on, the Scholarship will be presented by the Friends, this year by Ian Kimmer, the Friends’ representative in the Northland.

Past Winners:

2008–Nathan Prokovic

2009–Katherine Hagsten (pictured above with the Smith Award)

2010–Travis Wuori

The third was one that I contributed to as a veteran to one of  the veteran scholarships offered.  Moises Langhorst died in combat on 5 April 2004 in Fallujah, where some of the fiercest combat occurred; his cousin Dale Brekke died from PTSD.   I cannot imagine how the family survived this devastation.  I was deeply honored to be allowed by the family to contribute to this scholarship:  one veteran presenting a scholarship to two other veterans in memory of two brave young men, who never lived to adulthood, who died serving their country.  I was asked by Jeanette (Jet) Cox, their aunt,  to present the scholarship, one of the deepest honors I’ve ever been given.  I’ve long wanted to establish a scholarship for veterans, who frankly ought to be given four years of tuition-free education; I finally was given a chance to do so; I just never expected I would ever present the scholarship.  I am incredibly grateful to Ms. Cox and the Brekke-Langhorst families for creating a memorial, their willingness to allow a stranger to contribute to it, their courage in the face of tragedy I cannot comprehend and requesting I present the scholarship.

DALE ANDREW BREKKE-MOISES ALBERT LANGHORST MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP – two $500 awards – to a student enrolled at VCC who has served in the U.S. military during or since 1998 to the present and/or spouses, parents, or children of those who served in the U.S. military during or since 1998. Preference will be given to those who served in the Middle Eastern theater of operations. Applicants must be in good academic standing. Students who will be new to VCC in the fall of 2009, those continuing at VCC in the fall of 2009, and students graduating from VCC in the spring of 2009 and transferring to another college or university are eligible to apply.

Past Winners:

2008–Brandi Weigandt

2009–Joe Hiller

2010–Steven Pederson

2010–Laurel Heino

2012–Micheal McEvoy


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