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It’s hard to keep up with all that’s going in the Brainerd lakes area as the weather warms and spring activities keep everyone on the go.

At least that’s the excuse we’ll offer for missing former Kansas State University President Jon Wefald’s address at Central Lakes College’s May 10 graduation. The former state agriculture commissioner couldn’t have been more enthusiastic in his praise of the community college, its leadership team, academic and arts programs and sports teams. His wide-ranging bouquet of compliments included a not-so-subtle urge for more support from political leaders and a lament of a bad officiating call, which he said prevented the Raiders men’s basketball team from winning the Division III national championship in New York.

Sometimes it takes the perspective of an outsider to make us appreciate what we have in our own backyard. Wefald, a respected educator who formerly served as chancellor of Minnesota’s state universities offered several facts to back up his praise of the college. Here are a few of his observations about a school he described as the “crown jewel” of north central Minnesota, from the speech he gave to the graduates:

• “The Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., has named Central Lakes College as one of the top 120 community colleges in the entire nation — which means that your school is in the top 10 percent of all community colleges.”

• “Dr. (Larry) Lundblad was selected as one of only 20 community college presidents for the 2012 Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction from the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society for two-year colleges.”

• “The enrollment of the college has increased over 40 percent from 3,953 to 6,244 (since 2006).”

• “The economic impact of Central Lakes College ... is about $120 million annually.”

And we can’t omit one particular bit of advice he gave graduates as he emphasized the importance of continuing their own education: “Read a good newspaper every day.”

— Mike O’Rourke

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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