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Pioneer VIiewpoints: The task at hand for NTC

Wishing for it won’t make a problem go away.

That’s an old adage, one you’ve probably heard before or maybe it was phrased a little different. The basic premise remains: to make something happen, you have to act.

Richard Hanson, president of Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College, is taking that approach to the future of NTC.

Hanson announced Friday (and followed up with a commentary in Sunday’s Pioneer) the creation of a “Reinvention Task Force” that will examine all aspects of NTC and report back to Hanson in the spring. NTC has seen a steady drop in enrollment the past few years, from 943 students in 2010 to 783 students in 2013, with an estimated 4.2 percent decline this school year. As the press release from NTC said on Friday, the continued loss of students, coupled with steady cuts to higher education funding, “creates an unsustainable financial situation for the college.”

So, everything will be on the examining table — from individual academic programs and personnel to how best to maximize NTC’s physical facilities.

BSU and NTC have been aligned with each other since 2004, sharing various administrative duties, and they are treated as a single unit within the Minnesota State College and University System. Hanson said in the press release that NTC “will maintain a strong and independent identity.”

Tough decisions facing NTC and BSU are nothing new; we all remember the 2011 elimination of programs at the schools. In his commentary, Hanson said the outcome of the task force’s recommendations is hard to predict, but that NTC programs may be added or eliminated.

But to do nothing, to simply wish for the problem to go away, is not the right approach. Hanson and the task force, chaired by Bill Maki, vice president of finance and administration, should be commended for taking action to preserve NTC’s role in serving students, the region’s employers and the region’s economy.

Witness to history

Bruce Atwater has a remarkable story. A story for the history books. Atwater, 92, of Bemidji, was at the U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Sweeping up a recreation hall on the island, Atwater heard the roar of plane engines approaching. Stepping outside, he saw Japanese Zeros heading toward Battleship Row in the harbor. He watched in horror as ship after ship was destroyed, he related to reporter Zach Kayser in a story on Saturday’s Page 1, the anniversary of the attack.

“The loudspeaker system that connected the buildings told everybody to stay where you were, don’t try to go down in the harbor and help because you’ll only make matters worse,” Atwater said.

Hours later, Atwater would help tend to the wounded, images he’d rather not recall.  

“I have chosen to forget about most of that,” he told Kayser.

An incredible story for an incredible time. And as the years go by, there are fewer World War II veterans around to share their stories. That’s why the project started years ago by local resident David Quam is so important. Quam has interview and videotaped interviews with Bemidji area World War II veterans such as Atwater to preserve their stories for history.

Thank you, David. And thank you, Bruce, for your service.

To see the stories, visit