On August 17, 2013, members of the class of 1951 reunited on the UMD campus for its 622nd gathering, travelling from as far as Florida, Omaha and the Iron Range. Beginning with brunch in the Kirby Garden Room, the classmates shared stories from the past and present. A campus tour followed, which included a visit to Old Main and a fascinating tour of the Tweed Museum led by local artist and UMD alumnus Bill Shipley (‘66). Two 1951 alumni, Mary Swanstrom and Bill Anderson, share their personal stories with our View audience.
“I grew up in Lincoln Park,” said Mary Swanstrom. “There were a lot of neighborhood kids. We would play monopoly, dolls…and when the weather was nice, we would hopscotch and roller skate. It was a wonderful place to grow up.”
Mary attended school at Lincoln elementary and moved on to Denfeld high school where she graduated in 1948. She attends the class reunions as much as possible. “I was a cheerleader, and I was very involved with student organizations. I love returning and seeing my old classmates.”
After high school, Mary was accepted into the two-year program at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She studied elementary education with a minor in physical education and she continued with cheerleading. “It was nice being with the other girls. We weren’t acrobatic back then; we encouraged the crowds to cheer. It was a lot of fun.”
She also remained an active member of the student body. She was president of the UMD Barkers Club where she and other club members prepared for homecoming, sponsored pep assemblies before basketball games and made sure that students had transportation to such events including the St. Thomas-UMD basketball game in the Twin Cities. “I loved meeting all the different people through cheerleading and student council. It’s hard to connect in college, to make friends. But being a part of groups and organizations made it possible.”
Although she studied mostly English with a physical education minor, she remembers taking political science courses out of curiosity. Her favorite memories were when she assisted Professor Steiner who taught English. As her assistant, Mary learned a lot about grammar and what it took to run a classroom; all of which helped her after she graduated and began teaching at Chester Park.
After her first teaching job in Chester Park where she taught fourth grade subjects ranging from Math to Science to Art, she moved back to Lincoln Park and taught for an additional nine years in the very school she had been as a student. “Going back as a teacher was really wonderful. It was the same school but a different building. It was much newer than I remembered as a kid,” she said laughing.
Even though she currently resides in McGregor, Minnesota, Mary fondly recalls the long winters and the people who started out as classmates who then became friends. The years she spent at UMD were filled with happiness and great educational moments that led to her degree in elementary education. At the same time, she will always affectionately remember her experiences as an elementary teacher. “My advice for young people is for them not to give up. Keep striving for the best you can do and it will come back around to you.”
Our other proud Bulldog from the class of 1951, Bill Anderson, majored in business and economics. “I took all of the accounting classes available at that time. My classes were in Old Main until my senior year when some were in the original Science Building on the new campus.”
As the new campus expanded from the lone Science Building that Bill remembers, he is impressed by the variety of classes, degrees, enrollment numbers, and the many events open to the public. “My wife Evelyn and I are both UMD graduates. We love attending concerts at the Weber Music Hall and the Marshall Performing Arts Center productions as well as the many lectures and events on campus. We are so grateful for everything provided by the University.”
While growing up in Duluth, Bill enjoyed being near Lake Superior and the beautiful north shore that extends for many miles. “I love the change of seasons and being able to go with friends on canoe trips to what is today the Boundary Waters area. I also really enjoyed the opportunities provided by the Scouting program through which I became an Eagle Scout.”
When Bill was drafted into the Marine Corps and completed boot camp, he became a public voucher examiner stationed in downtown San Francisco during the Korean conflict. “Following my discharge, I worked in accounting positions for the Reserve Mining Company in Babbitt, Minnesota and then Silver Bay.” When he returned to Duluth, he worked in a variety of business and accounting positions that served the community which included the Scott Graff Company; The Congdon Office Corporation; Halvorson Incorporated; the Bombardier Corporation; and, the Radford Company from which he retired in 1992.
Serving the community has been an important part of Bill’s life. He recalls when he was named Duluth’s Outstanding Young Man by the Duluth Junior Chamber of Commerce at their annual Distinguished Service dinner where awards were distributed.
“As a member of the Lions Club for 57 years, I followed their motto ‘We Serve’ by living it,” said Bill. “I believe in giving back to the community by making time to be of service. My advice for young people is to find that time, no matter how busy you are because the community has served you in so many ways already.”
To view photos from the Class of 1951 62nd-Reunion, please click here.
Joy Rasmussen, one of the UMD Alumni Association Scholarship Recipients for 2013-14, spoke a few words at the reunion’s breakfast on August 17, as he grandfather Jamie Vesel, was also a graduate of the Class of 1951. Her speech only goes to show how Bulldog Pride can be passed from generation to generation.