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2016 Recipients



“Most people only dream of angels. We’ve held them in our arms.”

That is the motto of Angel’s Hands Foundation, the group founded by Mark Kristensen in 2001 as a way to improve the quality of life for individuals with rare medical conditions. The foundation was born out of heartache and hope. Mark’s son, Matt, died at age 16 from complications of a rare genetic disorder.

Kevin Seamans, whose family was helped by Mark’s foundation, says the financial and emotional support from the group has helped hundreds of families who often feel alone and alienated.

“His strong humanitarian instincts to help all in need, combined with his intuition and empathy to help heal is what’s most endearing about Mark,” says Seamans, whose daughter was diagnosed with a rare condition called Williams Syndrome.

There are more than 450 families _ touched by more than 150 rare diseases _ that have connected with Mark’s foundation. Angel’s Hands has raised and distributed more than $4 million to families.

“Being a parent that has lost a child puts Mark in a very exclusive club,” says Stephen Stauffer, Mark’s longtime friend. “I have seen the strength of that loss transform itself into a hope, and shared with those who have lost or know they are going to lose their child, with an understanding only found in the heart of someone who has been there.”

Mark’s day job in Salt Lake City is teaching children with special needs. He has helped hundreds of students graduate from high school and become upstanding citizens.

Mark credits the athletics program at South for turning his life around, and the 1972 graduate excelled at sports. He earned nine varsity letters. He was a member of Key Club, Chess Club and Junior ROTC.

Says Stauffer, “Mark is a friend to all.”



Colleagues of David Miller say the trombonist for the U.S. Navy Concert and Ceremonial Band could easily rest on his laurels as a performer. It also would be shortchanging his ability as a distinguished researcher, writer and arranger.

David has been part of the Navy Band since 2005 and co-principal trombonist of the Fairfax Symphony in Fairfax, Virginia, since 2008. He has also researched and transcribed arrangements for numerous works. His arrangement of Percy Grainger’s piece, “In Dahomey: Cakewalk Smasher” was premiered at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago in 2014 and performed several times by various Navy ensembles.

In addition, David was assistant librarian for the Navy Band for four years.

Tim Justus, professor and chairman of the music department at Midwestern State University, said David has “great credibility and authority” among professionals of the highest caliber.

“David is driven, but in the positive sort of way that allows him to accomplish great things and still not lose his sense of priorities,” Justus says. “He probably has no idea himself what he has accomplished and produced for the betterment and enrichment of the music world, and the professional band literature in particular.”

While in high school, the 1992 South High graduate was named to the North Dakota All-State Band for two years, the Fargo-Moorhead Youth Symphony for two years, and was picked for the University of North Dakota honor band three times. He won numerous solo and ensemble awards.

David received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Minnesota in 1998 and Master of Music degree from Temple University in 2000.

“David is a passionate musician and solid craftsman, and his knowledge of brass and orchestral literature and the music business is formidable,” says Michael Holmes, a member of the music faculty at Towson University.



Fargo South Hall of Fame member Dale Hertel says Mac Schneider is the greatest leader he has seen in 45 years of teaching and coaching.

High praise, indeed, but not surprising for someone who in short order has become a well-respected attorney, North Dakota Senate minority leader, and tireless advocate for victims of domestic violence, children, vulnerable adults and students. And he knows about dealing with adversity.

Mac was nominated and accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy, where he planned to play football and train for a career as a military officer. When he was processed out of the academy because of an unforeseen medical condition, he responded by enrolling at the University of North Dakota and walking on to the football team. He worked his way into the starting lineup and was a member of UND’s 2001 national championship team. He was a two-time academic All-American. He was the team’s co-captain and most valuable offensive lineman as a senior.

Mac compiled a near-perfect 3.97 GPA at UND and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude. He received two prestigious scholarships along the way. He was awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, given to college juniors committed to a career in public service, and was named a Walter Byers Scholar, an award given by the NCAA to only one male and female athlete per year.

After receiving his undergraduate degree from UND, Mac worked for former Rep. Earl Pomeroy and graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center, where he represented victims of domestic violence.

A multi-sport athlete at South High, the 1997 graduate was a member of state championship teams in football, wrestling, and track and field. He also was an honor student who was selected to speak at graduation.

“His leadership extended beyond the football field,” Hertel says.



When Gwen Stark was hired to direct plays at Fargo South in the early 1980s, principal Richard Warner was hoping she could put FSH theatre on the map. It wasn’t long after when her students earned the school’s first-ever first-place state trophy in one act plays.

That was the beginning of a more than 30-year career at South that saw Gwen become what Dr. Warner calls the “the face and driving force” of the school’s drama program. Many of her students moved on to professional theatre.

“Mrs. Stark was an educator who improved the lives of students, faculty, staff and parents at Fargo South High,” says J.J. Gordon, a 2002 FSH graduate. “I remember on numerous occasions when a student needed a champion when dealing with a difficult situation. Mrs. Stark would always come to the rescue.”

In addition to starting theatre and communications programs at South that were eventually taught throughout the district, Gwen founded the first improvisation troupe in the region. Her slate of awards included the Class A Director of the Year for one act plays on three occasions.

The program was barely surviving when Gwen was hired to direct three plays in 1981. Twelve students signed up in her first year. There were 25 the second year. After three years, the program had grown so much that students requested another level of theatre, and a Performing Arts II class was born.

“Over time, given Gwen’s positive and enthusiastic approach to drama, the program grew and prospered,” Dr. Warner says. “Gwen did this by encouraging and empowering the creative talents of her students.”

Gwen directed over 100 plays and musicals in her more than 40-year career.

“She has given of herself above and beyond with countless hours dedicated to students,” former South choral director Michael Radniecki says.