News Release

Torch & Shield Recognition Celebrates Generosity, Support

By Elizabeth Tollefson on
Friday, November 3, 2017

Torch & Shield recipientsIt is an evening dedicated to honoring individuals and organizations who have provided leadership and who have aided in the development of the University of Minnesota Crookston, the Northwest Research and Outreach Center, and Extension. The annual Torch & Shield Recognition was held on Wednesday, November 1, 2017, in Bede Ballroom, Sargeant Student Center. This year two organizations and one individual received the prestigious award: Justin Dagen, Bremer Bank, and American Crystal Sugar.

Hosting the evening’s event were Albert Sims, head of the Northwest Research and Outreach Center, and Mary Holz-Clause, chancellor of the University of Minnesota Crookston.

cassandra morthera and natalye kobetsky

Two students were featured during the program, which celebrated the region’s agricultural roots. Senior Natalye Kobetsky, a business management and agronomy double major from Grand Forks, N.D., represented student scholarship recipients in a speech that focused on those who have believed in her. Senior Cassandra Morthera, a communication major from Mexico City, Mexico, presented her creative works project—a video depicting the ingredients that make up the experience of earning a bachelor’s degree at the U of M Crookston.  

Members of the President’s Club were recognized on stage by Chief Development Officer Brandy Chaffee and Jan Sickbert, associate vice president of college and campus programs and representative of the University of Minnesota Foundation.

Torch & Shield Recipient Biographies

Justin Dagen

For more than 135 years, the Dagen family has been farming in the Red River Valley of Kittson County in Karlstad, Minnesota. Located in the most northwest corner of Minnesota, adjacent to North Dakota to the west and Manitoba, Canada, to the north, the Dagens have been turning over the Minnesota farmland for five generations.

In 2011, Justin Dagen served as the president of the National Potato Council, and as a Minnesota representative on the Board of Directors of the National Potato Council from 1996 to 2017. Dagen also serves as the vice president of Agrasure Board of Directors representing the Drayton Factory of the American Crystal Sugar Cooperative.

He keeps ahead of issues on his farm and in farming by working closely with University of Minnesota Extension and helping to inform them as well as receiving valuable information that informs his management decisions.

Bremer Bank

presidents clubBremer Financial Corporation is a privately held, $11 billion regional financial services company jointly owned by the Otto Bremer Trust and Bremer employees. Founded in 1943 by Otto Bremer, the company is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, and provides a comprehensive range of banking, wealth management, investment, trust, and insurance products and services throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Clients include individuals and families, mid-sized corporations, small businesses, agribusinesses, nonprofits, and public and government entities.

Bremer Bank is committed to the University of Minnesota Crookston, partnering in many ways from significant ongoing financial contributions, employee involvement, establishing relationships with faculty, staff, and students, employing U of M Crookston students and graduates, and showing their support by wearing maroon and gold on Fridays.

American Crystal Sugar Company

American Crystal Sugar Company is a world-class agricultural cooperative specializing in the production of sugar and related agri-products. American Crystal is owned by 2,750 shareholders who raise approximately one-third of the nation’s sugarbeet acreage in the Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota.

As the largest beet sugar producer in the United States, the company utilizes innovative farming practices, low-cost production methods, and sales and marketing leadership to produce and sell about 15 percent of America’s finest quality sugar.

American Crystal Sugar has collaborated with the Northwest Research and Outreach Center since the early 1970s on field-sized sugarbeet research production acreage. They are a member of the Sugarbeet Research and Education Board, which aids in supplying substantial funding through grower check-off for sugarbeet research.

The company participates in campus career fairs, employs a significant number of U of M Crookston alumni, and positively impacts the community through contributions, scholarships, and volunteerism. Their technical services center and corporate headquarters are located in Moorhead, Minnesota.

The University of Minnesota Crookston now delivers 34 bachelor's degree programs, 22 minors, and 40 areas of emphasis on campus as well as 14 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

Top, right, left to right, are 2017 Torch & Shield Recipients: Tom Astrup, president and CEO of American Crystal Sugar; Jim Snyder, president and marketing manager of Bremer Bank; and Justin Dagen, a fifth generation farmer and member of the County Extension Committee.

Center, left: Student speakers, left to right, are seniors Cassandra Morthera and Natalye Kobetsky

Bottom, right: Presidents Club honorees included, left to right,  Lyle and Sue Westrom; Angel Weasner, representing the Noon Day Lions; and Deborah Zak. 



Elizabeth Tollefson

University Relations