News Release

All-school Reunion of the Northwest School of Agriculture

By Elizabeth Tollefson on
Monday, July 2, 2018

Alumni from the Northwest School of Agriculture (NWSA) gathered for their annual reunion on Saturday, June 30, 2018, on the campus of the University of Minnesota Crookston. This year’s all-school reunion included some 225 alumni and guests celebrating their return to campus. top aggiesThe day was filled with activities including class meetings, an all-school reunion photo, campus tours, and a special recognition of Aggie athletes and cheerleaders.

Highlighting the day was the Top Aggie awards program held during a luncheon in Bede Ballroom, Sargeant Student Center. The Top Aggie award is the highest honor Northwest School alumni can receive. It recognizes those who have displayed exemplary commitment and service to community, church, education, family, or in their occupational field. This year’s recipients were LeRoy Opdahl 1964, Robert Fehr 1967, and Bill Zurn 1968 (in the photo, left to right).

The day concluded with a supper followed by dancing on the Campus Mall. A photo gallery is available at

Top Aggie award recipient biographies

LeRoy Opdahl 1964

After graduating from the Northwest School of Agriculture (NWSA), LeRoy Opdhal 1964 joined the Army National Guard and served from 1965 to 1971. For most of his early career, he farmed near Beltrami, Minn., and drove truck for Lee Nursery located in Fertile, Minn.

Opdahl and his wife, Jane, owned and operated the Mini Donut Factory for 29 years going to ten events per season.  Along with the Mini Donut Factory, they operated Opdahl’s Donuts in Fertile, which opened in May 2011. Their wonderful baked goods have been a fixture at the Mentor Farmer's Market from the end of May to the end of September every summer. The donut shop remains in the family but the Opdahl’s handed over operations in January 2018.

He served as a supervisor on the Scandia Township Board for a number of years as well as a deacon in the former Scandia Lutheran Church. He was a charter member in 1989 of the Resurrection Free Lutheran Church in Beltrami, Minn., where he was elected the congregation’s first president and also served as both treasurer and trustee.

In his free time, Opdahl may be seen behind the wheel of his 1956 Ford Fairlane, a two-tone classic he has owned for more than 35 years, or riding his Honda Gold Wing.

Robert Fehr 1967

One by one, five of seven children of Eilert and Clara Fehr left the farm near East Grand Forks, Minn., to attend the Northwest School of Agriculture (NWSA), and one by one, they would all graduate from college. For Robert Fehr 1967, watching his older brother Peter 1949 go from the NWSA to the University of Minnesota Medical School was the catalyst for his own career as an agricultural engineer.

Earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in agricultural engineering from North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D., was followed by a doctorate in agricultural engineering from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. This educational foundation led to a career in the field at the University of Kentucky where Fehr spent eight years as an Extension faculty member in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering in the area of livestock housing, 20 years in the College of Agriculture Information Technology Unit where he was director for 16 of those years, and the last six years back in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Extension Faculty in residential energy.

Fehr serves as a technical advisor to several groups including the Kentucky Board of Housing, Buildings & Construction; Home Builders Association of Kentucky; Kentucky Home Performance with ENERGY STAR; and the Midwest ENERGY STAR Conference. He retired in 2010 but maintains some work in the support area of residential energy efficiency and assisting with the completion of a grant-funded project before he fully retires.

Bill Zurn 1968

When he saw a need to be involved, Bill Zurn 1968 answered the call. After graduating from the Northwest School of Agriculture, his goal was to own his farm and raise a family while preserving the land and environment.

He spent 27 years in the North Dakota Air National Guard and 30 years as a supervisor for Riceville Township. His involvement in agriculture and in his community is extensive. He has been a director for three decades for the CHS Community Cooperative, and the Zurn Farm has hosted 30 agricultural trainees from several countries along with a number of trade teams from across the world.

He has been very active with the Becker-Mahnomen County Soybean and Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.  Zurn has been on Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council for nine years and currently serves as representative for District 1, 2, and 3.

Travels took Zurn to Brazil and Chili with Governor Pawlenty’s Trade mission and to the Japan Food Expo on behalf of the U.S. Meat Federation. He has been active in his church, and recognized for his leadership, innovation in biodiesel, and passion for agriculture by FFA, North Dakota State University, Becker County, and the Red River Valley Development Association.  His outstanding service reaches throughout the community, in the state, and across the country.


The NWSA was a residential high school located on the Crookston campus from 1906-68. The reunion is planned by the Office of Development & Alumni Relations in cooperation with the NWSA Alumni Association board. The 2019 reunion will be held on Friday, June 28, 2019, and will mark the first time in many years that the reunion will be held on a Friday.

The NWSA alumni reunion, first held in 1918, brings back alumni from the Northwest School of Agriculture, a residential high school located on what is now the University of Minnesota Crookston campus. The NWSA graduated its first class of 8 students in 1909.

The University of Minnesota Crookston now delivers 35 bachelor's degree programs, 23 minors, and 40 areas of emphasis on campus as well as 16 degree programs entirely online.  These degrees are offered in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; business; liberal arts and education; and math, science and technology.  With an enrollment of 1,800 undergraduates from more than 20 countries and 40 states, the Crookston campus offers a supportive, close-knit atmosphere that leads to a prestigious University of Minnesota degree.  "Small Campus. Big Degree."  To learn more, visit


Elizabeth Tollefson

University Relations