Ron Tate was a class officer, athlete and award-winning orator in the Class of 1961 and continued his involvement at Fergus Falls Community College, becoming the school’s first African-American graduate. He attended Florida A&M University on a golf scholarship, was a debate team member and was jailed for his participation in civil rights protests. After graduation he began work at AT&T and also earned his master’s degree in industrial relations at Loyola University. What followed was a life of breaking racial barriers in his corporate career. He rose to a general management position at AT&T, then made a mid-career transition to the business faculty at Florida A&M, winning numerous outstanding faculty awards. He continues to mentor former students and has been honored for his student civil rights activism.
Elaine Olson graduated in 1948 from Fergus Falls High School, where she participated in band, orchestra and choir, and then earned a degree from the Minnesota School of Business. She began her career in funeral service when she and husband Bob, also a member of the Class of 1948, returned to Fergus Falls after his military service. She enrolled at the University of Minnesota, becoming one of the first women funeral directors in the state. In 2007 she was recognized for 50 years of licensure in funeral service. Olson has been an active community member and continues her involvement in Rotary, Hospice, and Bethlehem Lutheran Church, and as a promoter for the Pioneer Care Center and the 544 Education Foundation.
Jim Worner‘s love affair with music began in elementary school with the encouragement of his family, and it continued throughout his years at Fergus Falls High School. He participated in both choir and band and had the honor of being selected as the soloist at his high school graduation ceremony. Worner’s first love (the clarinet) led him to his true love (wife Arlene) in high school, and their three sons also played in the high school’s bands and were all-state musicians. The Worner’s helped start the Fergus Band Boosters, and they take great pride in its support for student musicians. Worner’s high school musical opportunities had a lasting influence on his life, and he continues to perform in local bands, churches, and musical productions.
Tom Blondeau was among those rare human beings whose encounter with the ambiguity of life combined with a passionate vision of essential goodness resulted in his being a transformative presence in the lives of his students. It was this quality that lead so many to remark that Tom was “more than ‘just’ a teacher;” for them, he became a father, a mentor, a friend. His desire to see the holistic fulfillment of his students gave life to his vocation, but also brought with it pain; for the impact of even the greatest teacher is limited. But Tom never could remove his heart from his work. His love for his students never died, and in countless cases, neither did theirs for him.
Len Kretchman was a three-sport athlete for the Class of 1984, competing in football, basketball, and track for Hall of Fame coaches Don Stueve, Bob Bjorklund, and Terry Harrington. Kretchman led the Otters in rushing during his junior and senior years, when the Otters were 16-3 and competed in the state tournament in 1982. As a senior, he was a member of the first Otter basketball team to qualify for state in more than 30 years. He qualified for the state track meet as a junior, and he still holds school records in the 300 IMH and 4×100 meter relay. At North Dakota State University he started every game in his four-year football career, and the Bison were national champions in three of those seasons.
Carolyn Schmidt graduated from high school in Lakota, ND in 1965 during an era when girls sports were non-existent. She earned her undergraduate degree at North Dakota State University, where she played volleyball and basketball, then began her 40-year teaching career when she was hired to teach physical education at Fergus Falls Junior High School in 1969. Girls sports were just beginning at the high-school level, and Schmidt coached varsity gymnastics from 1971-1987, started and coached varsity volleyball from 1978-1983, and started and coached varsity softball from 1992-2000. She also played softball with local teams for many years. Schmidt did graduate work at West Chester State College in Pennsylvania and received her master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas. She retired from teaching in 2009. During her teaching career she was named 1984 Teacher of the Year and Coach of the Year in 1994. She was inducted into the Fergus Falls Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and the NDSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, and in 2006 she was honored with Minnesota’s Breaking Barriers Award.