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2005 Recipients



Jim Poolman, public servant. Those words have gone together for a long time, even though many believe the ND State Insurance Commissioner is in the infant stages of his political career.

A 1988 graduate, Jim was captain of the swim team and president of the DECA club at South. He won several honors at state and national DECA competition. " Jim ran for state DECA president and lost, probably the only election he has not won," said Bruce Harmon, the DECA adviser.

Jim was the student body president at the University of North Dakota where he earned a degree in business administration. He was doing graduate work in public administration when he became one of the youngest legislators elected to state government in 1993.
Jim was elected to four two-year terms in the North Dakota House of Representatives, serving about 13,000 citizens.

Jim also was a trust officer at Bremer Bank in Grand Forks for six years. "Jim has demonstrated integrity as a businessman with his years of service with Bremer Bank," Harmon said. "His work ethic has carried over to the Legislature and the office of insurance commissioner." Harmon continued, "Jim maintains the highest level of quality and professionalism along with a positive attitude and boundless energy."

“He was in junior high when he stated his intention of becoming a United States senator,” said U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, who has known Jim for 20 years. "Whatever is next for him, I trust he will pursue that objective with the same desire that has fueled his previously successful political endeavors," Wrigley said. "Whether one considers his time at UND, his time serving in the Legislature, or his term as state insurance commissioner, Mr. Poolman has worked to obtain political leadership positions and has become a visible member in the community."



Eager, thoughtful, intelligent, appreciative. Those are words that friends and classmates use to describe the late Mary Berg.

A 1969 graduate, Mary was an internationally known pharmacist and a member of the University of Iowa Women's Hall of Fame. She was instrumental in pharmaceutical education and the promotion of health.

Mary was an outstanding student at South who followed her lifelong dream of becoming a research scientist. She was known among her peers as a pioneer in women's health research, as well as a leader in her work on combating seizures.

"Mary was a naturally apt and thoughtful student who loved school and soaked up information," said Leslie Burdick, a 1969 classmate. "She was absolutely lovely and, I'd imagine, every teacher's dream student." Mary graduated from North Dakota State University, the University of Kentucky and completed her post-doctorate fellowship at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She joined the faculty of the Iowa College of Pharmacy in 1980. In 1995, she became the first woman promoted to professor in the pharmacy school, which was founded 110 years earlier.

Mary has been included in Who's Who in America, Who's Who of American Women, The World Who's Who of Women, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in the Midwest, and Who's Who in Science and Engineering.

An endowment fund set up by her father Ordean Berg includes $500,000 for the Mary J. Berg Distinguished Professorship in Women's Health. A classroom in NDSU's Sudro Hall also is named for Mary.

"Mary is really the finest kind of person that North Dakota and the Great Plains overall produce," Burdick said. "She was unassuming, industrious, and she delivered big ideas and real knowledge and research that genuinely benefit humanity." Mary was 53 years old when she died on Oct. 1, 2004, following an extended illness.



Whether it is people, houses or sports complexes, John Gunkelman is all about building better things. He started his own business in 1986 when he founded Dakota Construction, which specializes in high end custom homes, residential and commercial remodeling. It has grown from one employee to 14 full-time and 5 part-time workers. The company conducts $3 million a year in business. His sister Mary Todd Gunkelman, who works for the company says, "I cannot speak to his accomplishments and achievements except that his level of involvement in his industry and community brings most others to shame, including myself. My brother has supported his employees during military deployments and medical situations. He gives them time off to attend family activities.”

A 1969 graduate, John participated in cross country, track, student council, Key Club and music at South. He also was named to Boys State. He earned a major in industrial engineering and minor in construction management from North Dakota State University in 1974. John has served and continues to serve on many boards, including YMCA Camp Cormorant, which he attended while growing up, and the Western Exchange Club, a fund-raising group for community youth.

John has a love for many sports, above all soccer. He and his wife Judy helped organize and participate in several parents' groups that supported the players and tournaments. He was a member of the Red River Soccer Board for several years. John's family estimates that he has attended over 1,000 soccer games, most of them over an 11-year period when his four children played. His children said he always had encouraging words for all players, even in losses.

Roger Gress, executive director of the Fargo Parks and Recreation District, said John and his company donated a considerable amount of time and money to the Pepsi soccer complex in north Fargo as well as to other park district projects. Gress said, "John is very dedicated to his family, to the community, and especially to the youth. He is a quality, dedicated individual with a great sense of humor."



The safety and well-being of others has long been a priority for Lt. Rick Majerus who has been a key figure in law enforcement for nearly 30 years.

A 1973 graduate, Rick was a two-year letter winner in football and wrestling at South. As a senior, he was named to the All-Eastern Dakota Conference Team, The Forum's all-state team, and was voted South's most valuable defensive lineman. He was recruited to play football at the University of North Dakota, but his career was ended by an injury.

Rick joined the Cass County Sheriff's Office in 1976 where he remains employed. He worked his way up the ranks to his current position as chief investigator, handling and solving numerous high-profile cases. He recently was appointed by Gov. John Hoeven to the state's Task Force on Sexual and Violent Offenders. He also was named to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Paul Honl, a 1979 South graduate, worked with Rick for 10 years. "He would not hesitate to help an employee or share his law enforcement skills with others," Honl said. "He is very dedicated to his job, family, and friends."

Rick continues to be active in South activities. He has been a volunteer speaker for business law classes and career days. He was a board member of the Bruin Booster Club and helped line up donors for the football and track complex next to the school. "He will do whatever it takes in helping with any and all South High activities," said John Marsh, business and marketing teacher. "You can always count on his effort as a former Bruin."

Rick also has officiated high school hockey for the last 20 years, where Marsh said he is recognized for his "calm professional demeanor" in a fast, physical sport. Rick also is a member of the hockey rules committee for the National Federation of State High School Associations. “More than anything,” Honl said, “Rick is a man of character, knowledge, and has the gift of supreme patience."



As the principal of South for 25 years, students found Dr. Richard Warner compassionate yet firm, and that combination motivated them to bigger and better things. "Somehow he never became jaded or cynical, and he continues to see strong potential in each individual," said South graduate Drew Wrigley, the U.S. Attorney in North Dakota.

Dr. Warner came to Fargo in 1976 when he was named principal at Agassiz Junior High. He took over the reigns at South High in 1979. Known as well-read and intelligent, Dr. Warner has the ability to communicate with students, parents, teachers, and staff. "Personally, I appreciated the fact that Dr. Warner always treated his teachers with respect," said Susan Gigstad, chair of the South English Department. "Whether or not a problem was school oriented, he was available to listen, discuss, and offer solutions."

Dr. Warner received his undergraduate degree from Springfield College, Mass., and earned his master's degree and doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He began his career in administration as an assistant junior high principal in Flossmoor, Ill., in 1974.

Dr. Warner has contributed to or been featured in several publications. He was the subject of a story in the American Association of School Administrators in September 2004 after he retired from South. He has been a member of dozens of boards, committees, and associations. Dr. Warner currently serves as an assistant professor in the North Dakota State University School of Education.

Dr. Warner has been a favorite speaker at many events, including banquets, class reunions and Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. "Every student that I know has a fond memory of Dr. Warner and each can recite a time, that he made them feel important and unique," Wrigley said. "What an amazing gift to the thousands of young people he met and mentored along the way."