Four added to Distinguished Achievement Hall of Fame
Four new names were added to a list of high-achieving Brainerd alumni. Each were honored at the Brainerd Public Schools Distinguished Achievement Hall of Fame banquet Friday at Cragun's Resort. The four join the nearly 50 Brainerd High School (BH...
Four new names were added to a list of high-achieving Brainerd alumni.
Each were honored at the Brainerd Public Schools Distinguished Achievement Hall of Fame banquet Friday at Cragun's Resort.
The four join the nearly 50 Brainerd High School (BHS) graduates inducted since it began in 2001.
The new distinguished alumni include: Nancy Pedersen, class of 1970; Dennis Borgwarth, class of 1979; Tom Haglin, class of 1981; Joshua (J.P.) LaRue, class of 1992.
"The achievements of our inductees is truly impressive," said superintendent Klint Willert.
Plaques with each of their names will be placed at the high school.
Willert said he hopes current students will be inspired when they walk the halls and see the achievements of the Brainerd graduates who were there before them.
"Thank you for your passion with purpose," he said to the four inductees.
About the inductees:
Dennis Borgwarth - Class of 1979
Borgwarth was patriotic and humble, said his friend of 30 years, Valerie Temp.
Temp spoke about Borgwarth during the award presentation since he passed away earlier this year.
"He was genuinely interested in people," she said, noting that he'd go out of his way to help others.
Following graduation from BHS, Borgwarth earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, physics and mathematics from the University of North Dakota, graduating as valedictorian.
He also earned degrees and certifications in business, graphics arts, welding and machine shop.
He was the chief executive officer of Hot Metal Engineering, a firm dealing with extreme metal fabrication. He worked at FMC, later known as United Defense - British Aeronautic Engineering, for 28 years. His highest honor came on Dec. 8, 2010, in the United States Library of Congress in Washington D.C. as he was presented with the Golden Chairman Award for Innovation in the national defense industry. He developed the Railgun and held over 17 different patents. Many of the projects Borgwarth worked on were highly classified and specific information regarding his work for the United States Department of Defense is limited.
Borgwarth died at his home in Andover on Jan. 25, 2014.
He left a lasting impact on those he met, Temp said.
The pair played trumpet in BHS band together for three years. He often left school to play the instrument at military funerals.
It's a school band solo, though, that left a mark on Temp.
Borgwarth played "What I did for Love" from the musical "Cats." To this day, that song always reminds her of him.
"He laughed with people, not at them," she continued, describing his personality. "He never took himself too seriously. ...You couldn't have picked a more deserving person for this award."
Tom Haglin - Class of 1981
Haglin first learned about business growing up on a corn farm. Every season, his parents and the nine children sat down and divided up the work.
The adults kept 10 percent of the profit, leaving the other 90 percent to the kids. How much each earned, though, was based on the type of work they did and how much labor went into it.
"The lesson learned was that of working hard," he said. "With hard work, greater opportunity will come your way."
He took those life lessons to heart through school and after graduation.
Haglin's career has steadily grown with Acrometal Companies to founding the LINDAR Corporation in 1993 along with his wife, Ellen. Through the years, their company has earned many awards and much recognition for innovation, growth and outstanding business practices. His company holds several patents, specifically for the food packaging industry, and has received the Blue Chip award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Enterprise, as well as the 2009 Business of the Year award from the Initiative Foundation. LINDAR, a custom plastics manufacturer, has grown over the years and has acquired three other businesses along the way. In 2012, the Haglins purchased Lakeland Mold Company and currently their companies employ over 200 people from the community.
After graduating from high school, Haglin earned a bachelor's degree in business management from the College of St. Scholastica. He also is a graduate of Dale Carnegie, Brainerd Lakes Chamber Leadership Supervision I and II, plus many other professional development courses.
Locally, Haglin has served on many community and business boards. He's currently a member of the Brainerd School Board.
That was one of his "greatest joys," he said.
Haglin's message to students is simple: "If you have a passion, pursue it with perseverance."
Nancy Pedersen - Class of 1970
It was Pedersen's time at Brainerd High School that inspired her to travel.
Her first trip was a travel study to South Africa during part of her junior and senior years.
From there, she went on to Hawaii, Colorado and Sweden, where she lives today.
After graduating from BHS Pedersen earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Pedersen then earned her master's degree and PhD in Psychology and Behavioral Genetics from the University of Colorado.
Pedersen is a professor and leading researcher worldwide on behavioral genetics and twins. She has completed several studies such as LifeGene, the Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging Dementia in Swedish Twins, a twin study of environmental factors in Parkinson's disease, individual differences among the oldest, importance of quantitative trait and environmental factors for cardiovascular disease and chronic fatigue.
Pedersen is currently an adjunct professor of psychology at the Karolinska Institute, a medical university in Sweden.
Another key influence in her life beside her high school was her family.
"I thank my family for putting up with me," she joked after receiving the award Friday.
"I'm truly honored."
Joshua (J.P.) LaRue - Class of 1992
During the winter of his senior year, LaRue suffered a severe asthma attack that left him blind, unable to move and unable to speak. LaRue missed much of the school year while recovering, but was able to meet his requirements and graduate along with the class of 1992 from his wheelchair.
Frustrated with his inability to communicate, LaRue helped invent Virtual Morse, a communication device that has a small 10-button keyboard that resembles a harmonica. Each button has a different function and is operated with the user's tongue. Based upon the Morse Code alphabet, the device allowed LaRue to send email, as well as attend college and write and publish several books.
Speaking for LaRue Friday was his brother Jack LaRue.
"His real education began after his asthma attack," Jack LaRue said, with his brother by his side. "He had to relearn to walk and talk again. He overcame the loss of his sight and speech."
Today, Josh lives in Ohio where he continues to work on his writings and a cooperative project to bring his book "My Last Breath" to life as a documentary with Minnesota filmmaker Cy Dodson.
He's the author of six books.
Above all, Joshua LaRue has one important message for people, his brother said.
"Take nothing for granted. Life can change in the blink of an eye."