BEMIDJI -- Marion Christianson found success in following her own passions and in her ability to bring out the best in the Bemidji State University community members she connected with.
The longtime BSU icon known to her friends, students and family simply as “Mrs. C” passed away Saturday, July 27, at age 91.
Services will be held on Friday Aug. 2 beginning at 10:30 a.m. in the Beaux Ballroom at BSU -- where the Funtastic Dance Follies, one of Christianson’s greatest contributions to BSU are still held to this day.
Christianson attended Bemidji State Teachers College, majoring in physical education and music. Family and friends said BSU became a long lasting part of her life.
Christianson took on many roles at BSU. She taught many physical education classes, took over for Myrtie Hunt as director of the annual BSU Dance show, giving it the Funtastic name, and spent 12 years as Women’s Athletic Director at the beginning of the Title IX era.
Christianson’s son-in-law, Jon “Hondo” Langhout, said during her time at BSU, Christianson increased the acceptance of women in the workplace.
“She set one of the best examples of being a successful and confident woman,” Langhout said.
Donna Palivec was a longtime colleague of Christianson's at BSU. In fact, Christianson offered Palivec her job at the university, and she stayed for 22 years.
“She was a legend in her own time -- she wanted to do what was best for BSU and the women,” Palivec said.
Throughout her years at BSU, it wasn't perfection that Christianson strived for, but getting the best from students, Langhout said. She taught students quickly and effectively with room to grow their skills, he said.
“She made people feel like “OK, I can do this,'" Langhout said about Christianson's approach to teaching. “She brought people along when they felt like they couldn't do it.”
Many students taking part in Funtastic Follies had never been on stage or had dancing experience before. Vance Balstad, who worked alongside Christianson on technical aspects of the Follies, agreed that "Mrs. C" had a way of helping students be the best they could, in whatever role they had.
“She got the best out of the kids -- she would convince them they could do better,” Balstad said. “The kids respected Mrs. C.”
And it didn't matter what job you had with the Follies, he said.
“She always made me sound so important, like I was a technician -- she always wanted you to feel like you were important with the program,” Balstad said.
One of the many things he learned from Christianson, Balstad said, was that everyone you meet is a good person -- sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper.
Langhout said his mother-in-law leaves a left a lasting impact on their family and has taught them to always stay close to the people and places they love.
“She loved Bemidji and she loved being around her kids, grand kids and family,” Langhout said. “ We travel, but having a place like Bemidji to come back to is one of the neatest things that we took from Mrs. C.”
Christianson will continue to inspire success in BSU students through a continued namesake scholarship. The Marion Christianson and Betsy McDowell Scholarship is available to BSU physical education majors who show leadership and involvement in campus activities. And the Follies will keep on, now led by Christianson's daughter, Suzy Langhout.
“I feel honored to have a chance to know her,” said Balstad. “ I have always felt good to be a part of the dance show and the Christianson family.”