Northwest School of Agriculture classmates and friends gathered to reminisce, reconnect, and celebrate their 2023 All-School Reunion on Friday, June 23 on the University of Minnesota Crookston campus. There were over 120 alumni and friends in attendance and this year’s Top Aggies, Donna (Miller) Swan 1955 and Larry Rivard 1968, were honored during the annual luncheon and program.
The all-day event included an Aggie Huddle with former NWSA student-athletes, morning refreshments, luncheon, business meeting, group photo, classroom meetings with graduates from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s plus special meetings for the classes of 1953, 1958, 1963, and 1968 who celebrated their 70th, 65th, 60th, and 55th reunions, a happy hour social, and signing of the historical guest book.
2023 Top Aggies
Donna (Miller) Swan 1955
Donna (Miller) Swan graduated from the Northwest School of Agriculture in 1955 and continued her education at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., where she received a bachelor’s degree in music. She went on to be a vocal music teacher for two years at the public school in Balaton, Minn., followed by a choir and music teacher at a school in Slayton, Minn., now known as Murray County Central. Swan also directed the Balaton community choir for 10 years and, as part of this work, compiled 10 cantatas that were performed throughout southwestern Minnesota.
While at the NWSA, Swan received a National Honor Society scholarship for half of her senior year and received the Home Economics Award. Later, in the 1970s, she received the Citizen of the Year award from the Balaton Chamber of Commerce.
Over the years, Swan belonged to the local Home Extension group and was a leader for the Skandia Scouts 4-H Club in Murray County. After marrying her husband, Dennis, she joined Sillerud Lutheran Church, and served as the choir director, organist, and pianist over a span of 58 years. Additionally, she taught piano students for approximately 50 years, led the quilting ministry at Sillerud for 40 years, and led the interdenominational Bible study for 40 years. The quilting ministry was a group who made quilts for underserved people through the local food shelf, to families suffering illness and loss, and to celebrate high school graduates and babies who were baptized.
The Swans have three children: Rita Everhart, Carmen Sondrol, and Kathy Ellingson.
“Coming from a country school with never having more than three in my class, Mrs. Ittner made me feel welcome and important,” Swan said about life at the NWSA. “Miss Bede was a close second favorite teacher.”
Larry Rivard 1968
Larry Rivard graduated from the Northwest School of Agriculture in 1968 and went on to pursue accounting before becoming president of Rivard’s Quality Seeds and Rivard’s Turf & Forage. He held memberships and various committee positions with the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, North Central Turf Grass Association, and the University of Minnesota Crookston turf department Program Advisory and Improvement Committee. In 2022, Rivard was presented with the Premier Seed Grower Award by the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association of St. Paul.
Rivard served many boards and committees over the years including vice president of the Argyle School Board, member of the Argyle Lions Club and American Legion, member of the Argyle St. Rose of Lima Church board, treasurer and trustee of the Grand Forks Holy Family Knights of Columbus, treasurer of the Hearing Loss Association of Grand Forks, and secretary for the Grand Forks Longbow Court Homeowners Association.. He also served on the Argyle, Minn., volunteer fire dept for a number of years and was part of a committee for after school youth activities in Argyle. In recognition of his service, Rivard was named Knight of the Month several times by the Grand Forks Holy Family Knights of Columbus.
Rivard and his wife, Elaine (Kovar) 1968, have four children: Bill Rivard, Angie Rivard Pulczinski, Vicki Bunn, and Patti Rivard.
Rivard’s favorite motto is: “Be consistent and accountable”, which he learned at NWSA.
“All of the staff at NWSA had a positive impression on me and the most impressionable coach was Mr. Lysaker,” he added. “Our trip up to Winnipeg my sophomore year was a really bonding experience. Leadership Camp at Itasca State Park was another great trip and the class trip to St. Paul also.”
History of the NWSA and its alumni reunion
The 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 opened its doors in 1906 and graduated its first class of eight students in 1909. The high school educated students for 60 years and graduated 5,433 students before the campus transitioned to a two-year technical college, and ultimately to the four-year university it is today.
NWSA Top Aggie Award
The Top Aggie Award is the highest honor given to NWSA alumni by the alumni association. This award recognizes alumni who have displayed exemplary commitment and service to community, church, education, family, or in their professional field.
View the 2023 reunion photo gallery at z.umn.edu/2023-nwsa-reunion-photos
Save the date for next year’s NWSA All-School Reunion to be held Friday, June 28, 2024. To nominate someone for the Top Aggie Award, go to crk.umn.edu/awards/nwsa-top-aggie-award.