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2013 Centennial

George McFarland (1922-38)

George McFarland led the school through its two most trying decades, when economic depression and financial belt-tightening were paramount. Despite overwhelming adversity, this remarkable man, who was 64 when he assumed office in August 1922 and 80 when he died in 1938, managed to keep the school from foundering during the Great Depression.

McFarland had a long work history and a deep understanding of education on the Northern Plains. Several personality traits, including confidence, intelligence, sincerity, friendliness and empathy, contributed to McFarland's success. He was a natural public figure, who felt at ease whether conversing with individuals or addressing a large group.

Regardless of the problems facing the school, McFarland believed Minot State Teachers College's future held great promise. He displayed two attributes, optimism and sense of mission, in his Saturday evening radio talks on KLPM in the midst of the Great Depression.

The mission of the college, McFarland insisted, extended beyond teaching subjects and skills. The president described his faculty as fulfilling many other roles in addition to their pedagogical commitments. He introduced extracurricular activities as valid to the community.

McFarland's response to the budgetary crisis facing North Dakota and MSTC in 1931 illustrates his flexibility and skill as an administrator. On two occasions, the governor summoned state college presidents to Bismarck, where he informed them of required budget cuts. For Minot, this meant drastic cuts in virtually all facets of college expenditures. McFarland returned home after the meetings determined to conform to the governor's demands and to ensure that his institution would survive. He gathered the college community to discuss the crisis.

"I regret," he announced at the meeting, "to occupy a position in which some of these decisions must rest with me. I am likely to be under the necessity of ignoring individual disappointments in the interest of what my judgment may indicate is best for the school." In another speech, he softened this by stressing that whatever he did "to enable the college to carry out its objectives with the funds allowed" he would do "with the least possible disaster to individuals." His budgetary tactics included reducing salaries 10 percent from the president to the part-time janitor, while summoning his troops to exhibit heightened seriousness, loyalty and commitment. The president admonished his colleagues to consider the larger picture, to ponder the magnitude of the economic crisis their institution faced. If they did, McFarland believed, they would understand that "we are very fortunate indeed to be permitted to continue more of less indefinitely on the 10 percent reduction in salaries."

McFarland built Dakota Hall, a woman's dormitory, in 1930-31 during the first years of the Great Depression. Unlike the new Model School and president's house, which were built under New Deal programs, Dakota was funded with a $150,000 bond, issued by the local dormitory holding association under a special act of the 1929 Legislature.

McFarland, a visionary, held strong beliefs. He understood and appreciated students and their activities. He believed women were equal to men. He admired teachers and learning. He believed in the importance of music.

McFarland died unexpectedly in 1938. Under his tutelage, MSTC's enrollment increased from about 200 to 765, and it grew from a normal school offering a two-year course to a full-fledged college offering four years of college work.