Services Set for Former MSUM President Dr. Roland Dille - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Services Set for Former MSUM President Dr. Roland Dille

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We have an update regarding the death of Roland Dille, who passed away Monday at age 89. He was the longest-serving president of Minnesota State University-Moorhead.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at Lutheran Church of Good Shepherd in Moorhead.  Visitation will be on Friday from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. with a "time of sharing" slated for 7:00 on Friday, also at Lutheran Church of Good Shepherd.

Dr. Roland Dille passed away on May 26, 2014, surrounded by his loving family.  Dr. Dille was MSUM’s longest running president, serving from 1968-1994.

Dr. Dille was born on September 16, 1924, on a farm near Dassel, Minnesota, where he attended public schools.  He often referenced his childhood in Dassel in speeches and writings.  After a year at the University of Minnesota, he was inducted into the U.S. infantry in 1943.  During World War Two, he served in England, France, and Germany, and, after the war, in Salzburg, Austria during the Occupation.

After the war, he returned to the University of Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, summa cum laude.  In 1948, he married Beth Hopeman of Moorhead.  Dr. Dille’s career in education began in 1949 when he returned to teach at his native Dassel High School.  In 1950, he returned to the University of Minnesota, earning his doctorate in twentieth-century British literature.

From 1956 to 1961, Dr. Dille taught English at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.  From 1961 to 1963, he taught English at California Lutheran College from which he was let go after opposing college administration actions that he believed to be unjust.  Dr. Dille was hired by Moorhead State College’s then-President John Neumaier, joining the English Department in 1963. In 1966, he was named Dean of Academic Affairs and in 1968 became its president, retiring in 1994.

The nation was in conflict when he assumed leadership at MSUM (then Moorhead State College) in 1968, a year that brought a divided nation the assassinations of both Senator Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and mounting tensions on college campuses across the country, including Moorhead.  As the symbol of authority, President Dille was not immune to rising hostility.  Starting while he was a Dean and continuing after he assumed the presidency, Dr. Dille and others resolved to work to address national racial issues locally, by recruiting Black students and faculty, a decision opposed by a vociferous few.  He received threats on the lives of his children and black paint was splattered on his car.  When a student fired a gun on campus, intensifying racial tensions, Dr. Dille calmed hostilities by publically speaking against violence.  At the same time, student opposition to the war in Vietnam led to widespread unrest that reached Moorhead.  Local professors were advising students on draft dodging; William Kunstler spoke at Moorhead and urged the students to burn the campus down; and the student newspaper bitterly opposed the Vietnam War.  During a moratorium on campus following the Kent State shooting, Dr. Dille told State police -- poised to stop an expected demonstration -- to stay off campus, averting violent confrontation.  Dr. Dille himself had come to oppose the war, and testified in support of conscientious objectors, including some of the most strident campus radicals, future Minneapolis City Council Member Brian Coyle among them.

From this tumultuous beginning, Roland Dille remained a friend of the student.  He co-founded Tri-College University to expand course options for students throughout the area and created the New Center to meet the needs of students with unrealized potential.  During his tenure, MSUM's enrollment more than doubled, five new buildings were built, the library was expanded, and land was acquired for future expansion.   When asked what he would like to be remembered for, Dille said, ``Getting students to accept and seriously support the liberal arts as an essential background for working, voting, living people.  We're entering a period when the nation is looking at our education system for answers. It wants a more rigorous education where students are made to challenge their potential.''

Dr. Dille estimated he worked more or less closely with a thousand teachers over the years, once saying, “If it is important not to lose faith in teachers, it is even more important not to lose faith in young people. And that means accepting the endless complexities of human beings….  We must ask of our colleges that they provide not just advanced training but education, an education that addresses the fullness of possibilities, that does not deny to its students intellectual, spiritual, and imaginative challenges and growth.”      

Dr. Dille's dedication to the humanities and education took him far from Moorhead and around the globe on educational missions that included a newly-opening China.  He was appointed by President Carter to the National Council for the Humanities and was elected President of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.  He served as Acting Chancellor of the Minnesota State University System, declining the invitation to apply for the permanent job.  In 1989, he was named one of the 100 most effective college presidents in the United States.

While at Moorhead State, he was active in the local community as well, as member of the Moorhead Rotary Club, board chair of the Moorhead Area Chamber of Commerce, and member of the boards of several historical societies, including the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County.  His numerous publications also showed an abiding interest in serving both campus and community, comprising reviews and essays on literature, education, and local history.

After his retirement, he was named President Emeritus of Moorhead State University and to the Honorary Council of the Minnesota Historical Society.  The Minnesota Humanities Commission established the Roland Dille Award for Distinguished Service and MSUM named the Roland Dille Center for the Arts after him.  Dille has received many honors in his name for his contributions to MSUM, such as the Roland and Beth Dille Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award and the Dille Fund for Excellence.  He remained active, in demand as a public speaker and continuing to write on a variety of topics, including on the history of his hometown.  A temporary exhibit, “Roland Dille and the Dassel Story,” has just opened at the Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum.

Roland is preceded in death by his parents Oliver and Eleanor Dille and his brother Donald.  He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Beth (Hopeman), by his children Deborah (Vincent Casalaina) of Berkeley California, Martha of Prior Lake, Sarah (Daniel Stauffer) of Moorhead, and Benjamin (Anna) of Astana, Kazakhstan; by grandchildren Amy, Annie (Neil Holmgren), and Stewart Jollymore, Aidan Lynch, Angela Plitkow (Matt), Deborah Schmidt, Nicolas Dille-Umber, Alexander Dibrov, and Daniel and Elizabeth Dille; and by one great grandchild, Gabriel.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions in Dr. Dille’s name to the Dille Fund for Excellence or to the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County.

Funeral arrangements are pending through Wright Funeral Home in Moorhead.
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