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2013 Centennial

Arthur Crane (1913-21)

The groundbreaking for the State Normal School at Minot's initial building, known later as Old Main, was scheduled for Aug. 27, 1912. On the evening before the ceremony, Crane, a Carleton (Northfield, Minn.) College graduate, performed his first unofficial act. In the middle of the night, the 35-year-old, newly chosen president moved survey stakes 50 yards back. He disagreed on the building's location with State Normal Board member Martin Jacobson, who helped with the school's physical layout. Crane wanted it back from present-day University Avenue to accommodate future growth and took the necessary steps to ensure that.

Crane possessed diverse talents. Although he had a poetic streak, he was a practical, resourceful man. An intellectual, an author, a gifted organizer, he had above all else the ability to inspire others. He could be forceful as well.

When the choice of school colors was made, Crane voiced his preference for red and green. The art faculty recommended three colors, but the president would not be swayed. He saw the young institution as belonging to the common people of the state. The geranium's red and soft green symbolized to him the school's function to provide a better life for ordinary people. He said, "I don't care what colors you choose. Just so they're red and green." In the early years of Minot's Normal School, each window of the Main building had a box of geraniums.

Crane skillfully guided the school through social, cultural, economic and legal difficulties in its first days. When construction problems delayed the campus' opening, he promptly sought another option. He appealed to the community, which provided the rent-free use of the newly constructed Minot Armory. The first term of the State Normal School at Minot began Sept. 30, 1913, in the armory. Its offices served as recitation rooms, and the basement was the auditorium and gymnasium. Crane and the original faculty established the identity and traditions of the fledgling school. Students, faculty and staff often referred to him as "Father Crane."

In 1917, Crane received a 14-month leave of absence to pursue graduate education at Columbia University in New York. He returned to North Dakota in September 1918. However, before he could resume his presidential duties, the Surgeon General of the U. S. Army called him into service for World War I. Crane worked for the Army Sanitary Corps. at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D. C., organizing rehabilitation work and vocational training for disabled soldiers. He returned to Minot's State Normal School for two months in 1921, before resigning to accept the presidency of the University of Wyoming.