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Bemidji honors BSU, NTC President Faith Hensrud with retirement reception

After serving both institutions since 2016 and her retirement effective June 30, around 75 community and education leaders convened to offer their well-wishes and reminisce on Hensrud’s tenure.

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Outgoing BSU and NTC President Faith Hensrud smiles while watching a video slideshow featuring notable accomplishments during her tenure as part of a retirement reception held in her honor on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Faculty, friends and family alike celebrated outgoing Bemidji State and Northwest Technical College President Faith Hensrud’s retirement with a program and reception in the American Indian Resource Center on Thursday.

After serving both institutions since 2016 and her retirement effective June 30, around 75 community and education leaders convened to offer their well-wishes and reminisce on Hensrud’s tenure.

“We express our deep appreciation of the contributions you have made to Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College as well as across the (Minnesota State) system,” Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra said during a speech addressing Hensrud. “You can be justifiably proud of your work.”

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Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra gives opening remarks during a retirement reception on Thursday, June 2, 2022, for outgoing BSU and NTC President Faith Hensrud at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

A common theme throughout the evening was Hensrud’s commitment to position BSU as the preferred destination university for Native American students and address the goals of Equity 2030, a system-wide initiative to eliminate educational equity gaps at every Minnesota State college and university.

Related achievements included collaborating with an Indigenous Advisory Group to draft a land acknowledgment statement that’s read regularly at university events.

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Hensrud also met with tribal college presidents from Red Lake, Leech Lake, White Earth and Fond Du Lac Tribal Colleges in 2017 to create dual-admission agreements where students could be automatically admitted to BSU after completing a two-year degree at their respective colleges.

“You have created a solid foundation for this campus to become a destination campus for American Indian students,” Roger Moe, member of the Minnesota State Board of Trustees, said during his speech. “Your strong relationship, commitment and participation with the Equity 2030 initiative has been so important up to this day.”

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Minnesota State Trustee Roger Moe speaks during a retirement reception on Thursday, June 2, 2022, for outgoing BSU and NTC President Faith Hensrud at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Moe then spoke more personally about his friendship with Hensrud.

“We all have friends, but there are some friends that are more special,” Moe mentioned. “President Hensrud has invited us to hockey games, dinners, ribbon-cuttings, groundbreakings and more commencements than we’d like to mention. These two campuses are special friends.”

BSU Foundation Board President Cynthia Cashman offered her own unique insights on Hensrud’s presidency.

“One thing I’ve noticed and admired about Faith is that she’s a really sharp dresser,” Cashman said which was met with a round of laughter from those in attendance.

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BSU Foundation Board President Cynthia Cashman, left, and BSU Executive Director of University Advancement Josh Christianson, right, present outgoing BSU and NTC President Faith Hensrud with a commemorative jersey during a retirement reception held in her honor on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

To add to her closet of green and white, BSU Executive Director of University Advancement Josh Christianson along with Cashman presented Hensrud status as an honorary alumna and a commemorative jersey.

Cashman left off, “the President Faith Hensrud era is complete, but Faith’s legacy is going to live on forever.”

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Statements of support

A video slideshow featured several notable accomplishments from Hensrud's tenure including BSU's centennial celebration, 50 years of women's athletics and navigating both institutions through the coronavirus pandemic.

The slideshow also included submitted speeches addressing Hensrud, and other in-person attendees had a chance to share some words when the mic was passed around.

“When I first sat down to talk with Faith, I knew immediately that she was going to be the next president (for BSU and NTC),” former Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht said.

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Former Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht speaks during a retirement reception on Thursday, June 2, 2022, for outgoing BSU and NTC President Faith Hensrud at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Albrecht also spoke about the support that Hensrud offered for other women leaders in the area.

“Sometimes, we felt like our voices weren’t as well-respected and strong as we thought they should be,” Albrecht continued. “I appreciate the support that you have given (me and other women leaders) and the model that you have been for students across the community and state.”

Former BSU and NTC President Jim Bensen told a story about taking Hensrud out for lunch her first day on campus. He informed her that he still had an on-campus office with the BSU Foundation and if she were uncomfortable with it, he jokingly offered to leave his position.

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Former BSU and NTC President Jim Bensen speaks during a retirement reception on Thursday, June 2, 2022, for outgoing BSU and NTC President Faith Hensrud at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

“(Hensrud said) 'you stay there' and we’ve had a great run together,” Bensen recalled. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for this community.”

Hensrud’s husband Neil kept Hensrud’s retirement in perspective.

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“I’m so proud to have been part of this team for all these years and I’m the lucky one,” Neil said. “I get to stay with her for a while after this.”

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Faith Hendsrud’s husband, Neil, speaks during a retirement reception for Faith, the outgoing BSU and NTC President, on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Hensrud took her turn at the stand thanking everyone for their presence, collaboration and friendship over the years.

“I know the missions of BSU and NTC will continue on beyond me as you continue to focus on what’s important for students,” Hensrud said. Speaking as a first-generation college graduate, she added, “students are the reason we are committed to higher education.”

In closing, Hensrud punctuated her continual support for BSU and NTC, and offered a piece of wisdom for those wanting to do the same in the form of donations.

“No speech is too short and no gift is too large,” Hensrud said as laughter and applause erupted from the attendees.

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Outgoing BSU and NTC President Faith Hensrud gives closing remarks during a retirement reception held in her honor on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Hensrud announced her retirement plans in August 2021 prompting a presidential search . Following the search process, the Minnesota State Board of Trustees appointed John Hoffman from the University of Minnesota Crookston to replace Hensrud beginning July 1.

Hensrud plans to move to Plymouth at the month’s end to be closer to family, specifically her newest granddaughter, Alice, who was born in June 2021.

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Community and education leaders watch a video slideshow featuring notable accomplishments during outgoing BSU and NTC President Faith Hensrud’s tenure as part of a retirement reception held in her honor on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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