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MSU Profiles

Stai and others learn leadership at MSU

Newly elected, Jim Stai represents the economic development sector on the Dakota Certified Development Corporation board of directors. Dakota CDC partners with lenders, economic development professionals and others to offer creative financing packages for small businesses. Stai graduated from Minot State College in 1967 with a business administration degree and ultimately became the North Dakota district director for the Small Business Administration. He credits Minot State, a small school, with launching his career and the careers of other state leaders.

"When I was at Minot State College, Keith Elliot, a Teke, and I became acquainted," Stai shared. "He ended up becoming the state director of Housing and Urban Development, a federal agency, in Fargo. Robert Sanderson, a college friend, became the chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota. During his tenure, Bob and I collaborated, and he started moderately priced housing for people as a LSSND subsidiary."

The Minot native chose MSU because of its affordability, and he could stay at home. Although he had to pay for college himself, he feels that Minot State was the perfect place for him. All four Stai siblings attended the school, and Jim Stai, Jerry Stai, MSU assistant professor of finance, and Nancy Stai Taylor, graduated from MSU.

"It was good for me to go to a small school instead of a large university," Stai related. "I loved the campus, plus I got involved with campus life. I was president of the Minot State Independents, doing things like Homecoming and creating more activities on campus. On Monday nights, we would dance until 9:30 or 10 in the Student Union. There was a good climate for students, where everyone got along."

In addition to a business foundation, Stai received a well-rounded liberal arts education.

"I loved the classes, but many of the faculty took an interest in me as a person. Pearl Stusrud, accounting professor, was very helpful. Bob Sando, a young business teacher just starting out, was wonderful to learn from. Emma Abolitins, German instructor, motivated me to get in the right direction and was very nice to me. She actually talked about Germany after World War II when the Americans rescued her. Dr. Harold Aleshire in humanities taught me an appreciation for the arts and architecture."

After graduating from MSU, Stai completed a master's degree in education at the University of North Dakota. He then taught business at Lake Region Junior College and adult education classes at night before joining the U.S. Small Business Administration in 1979. During his time at SBA, he served as the business development specialist for the Fargo District Office, assistant district director for business development and the North Dakota district director, a position he held until retiring in July 2013.

Stai received awards, including SBA's highest recognition, the Gold Award; Minority Advocate of the Year from the North Dakota Minority Contractors Association; North Dakota Distinguished Service Award from the N.D. Jaycees; and North Dakota State Vocational Association for Outstanding Service to Education.

Stai also taught MSU President Steven Shirley's fifth grade Sunday School class.

"I think the world of Dr. Steve Shirley," Stai said. "I admire him for his work at Minot State during these difficult times of budget concerns."

Stai and his wife, Sandy, have three children, Jeff, Steve and Greg, and Max, a springer spaniel and certified therapy dog. They are also the proud grandparents of Chase, Caitlin and Cole.

"Leadership skills acquired at Minot State enabled Bob Sanderson, Keith Elliot and me to head up state agencies," Stai said. "I have been blessed because of my experiences at MSU. Minot State has developed many leaders through the years who impacted the state and beyond."