Sioux Award Banquet Honors Goreckis, Kleinsasser, More

The Sioux Award is the highest honor presented to UND alumni and friends who have distinguished themselves through professional achievements, participation in community service and loyalty to UND. The UND Alumni Association and UND Foundation are proud to present the 2012 Sioux Award to the following worthy recipients; Benedict, ’62, ’63 and Dorothy Gorecki, Garfield Beckstead, ’61, Kathryn Urich, ’86, and Mark Chipman, ’83, ’85.

The Sioux Award banquet will be held Thursday, Oct. 11, in the Alerus Center Ballroom starting with a social at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the awards ceremony at 6:30 p.m.

Two recipients of the Young Alumni Achievement Award will also be recognized at the banquet. They are Jim Kleinsasser, ..’99, and Sheri (Kleinsasser) Stockmoe, ’97, ’99.

You can read all about the winners below.

The Sioux Award recipients are:

Benedict and Dorothy Gorecki

Benedict F., ’62, ’63, and Dorothy J. Gorecki of Milaca, Minn., are longtime supporters of the University of North Dakota and the namesakes of the Gorecki Alumni Center.

Ben first came to UND in the late 1950s, hoping to enroll in the College of Engineering & Mines. He and Dorothy had already been married for 11 years and had three children. With the demands of a family and a full-time job – Ben worked for Northwestern Bell at the time – he was met with skepticism at the admissions office. “Dean Robertson said, ‘you can’t do it.’” Ben said. “And I thought, ‘Well, you don’t know me, yet.’”

In 1962, Ben graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, and in 1963 earned his B.S. in Business Administration. “It was a team effort,” Ben said. While he went to class and worked, Dorothy took care of their children and home, while employed at various jobs.

Four years after Ben’s graduation, he and Dorothy founded Gorecki Manufacturing, Inc., in Milaca, a diverse contract manufacturer. For more than 40 years, Ben and Dorothy ran the company, Ben at the helm and Dorothy providing secretarial and payroll support. It started as a family operation making wire harnesses, quickly grew to seven employees, and eventually employed 250. The employee-owned company now boasts 224,000 square feet of production and warehouse space with locations in Milaca, Pierz, and Foley, Minn.

Today, Ben and Dorothy dedicate their resources to helping others. They are unassuming and generous philanthropists who focus their charitable giving on education, health and special needs of their communities. In 2008, the Goreckis won the 2008 Distinguished Philanthropist Award from the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. They say they hope to inspire others to also recognize and support the needs of important causes. “It’s a good feeling to see other people support the projects we believe in,” Dorothy said.

Together, Ben and Dorothy raised five children. They have two surviving daughters, eight grandchildren and one great-grandson. “We’ve been married 60 years. Our family is our biggest accomplishment,” Ben says. “And our health,” adds Dorothy.

Garfield Beckstead

Garfield “Gar” Beckstead, ’61, quit a lucrative job as an international business consultant right as he was on the verge of becoming a partner, and moved to a deserted island off the gulf coast of Florida.

But Beckstead didn’t go to Useppa Island to live a life of leisure. Instead, he traded in a business suit and tie for hand-tools and hard labor as he and his wife, Sanae, toiled to bring the island back to its former glory as a resort destination.

The island had been owned by famed Florida entrepreneur and land developer Barron Collier, who established a Useppa resort that attracted the likes of the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Rothschilds during the early decades of the 20th Century.

But the island was later abandoned, and the jungle had reclaimed more than a dozen buildings by the time the Becksteads arrived in 1976. “It was pioneering in a true sense of the word,” said Beckstead. “You have no water, no power. You are cutting jungle. It was pretty Wild West pioneering.”

Beckstead had his doubters early on. “The first three or four years on Useppa everybody viewed me as eccentric and a little crazy for giving up one of the best jobs in the world as a management consultant. A lot of people thought I was nuts!”

But he persevered, first building a dock to attract anglers and then fixing up marina buildings, restoring the clubhouse and clearing plots of land for home sites. By the end of the first five years, there were nearly 600 club members, 60 property owners and the island was buzzing with activity.

“It was a return to my roots,” said the Emerson, Manitoba native who played hockey at UND and graduated with a degree in Engineering. “Cutting the jungle, building buildings, making repairs, painting, fishing and running boats around was more who I was than a buttoned up, hat-wearing consultant.”

The end result was a private island paradise with a sterling reputation. Conde’ Nast Traveler magazine called it “One of the top 25 true island retreats in the world — serenity, great facilities and fishing, and no cars. Useppa has it all.”

Beckstead later developed the Palm Island Resort 30 miles away with his brother, Dean.

“I’ve kind of lived the impossible dream. Yes, I’ve worked my tail off, but every morning I’ve gotten out of bed I’m running along in a boat and I’m wondering ‘Am I working or playing?’ That’s been a constant theme of my 35 years on the island.”

Kathryn Uhrich

Kathryn Uhrich, ’86, is a scientist and researcher, university dean, entrepreneur, world traveler and philanthropist.

As a high-schooler at Grand Forks Central, Kathryn’s chemistry teacher connected her with a research internship at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks.

She continued that research through high school and college, and would go on to graduate cum laude from UND with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. “Math, Chemistry, German — there wasn’t a class at UND I didn’t like,” she said.

Her positive experience and interaction with her professors inspired her to continue her education at Cornell University, where she earned her Master of Science (1989) and Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry/Polymers (1992). She completed her post-doctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and AT&T Bell Laboratories.

As founder of the Polymerix Corporation, her continued research has focused on polymerized drugs that more efficiently deliver treatment to targeted areas such as orthopedic implants, coronary stents and arthritic joints. In 1997, she patented
PolyAspirin, which is now undergoing clinical trials as a material for a new type of cardiac stent, and  co-founded Polymer Therapeutics, which focuses on using PolyAspirin for wound care.

In addition, she is serves as Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she oversees six departments and 300 faculty members.

“Being a woman scientist, people often say ‘Are you sure you should do this?’” Kathryn said. “Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I can’t run a machine or do cool science.”

That prompted her to establish the Jeanette M. and Herbert W.A. Kroll Scholarship Endowment at UND, which is named in honor of her grandparents, who always encouraged her to do what she thought was best for her and is aimed at young women who are interested in science and engineering.

Her scientific honors include being named to the New Jersey’s Technology Council Hall of Fame (2006), Outstanding New Jersey Scientist by the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research (2004), and the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award (2003).

In February, New Jersey’s Star Ledger newspaper named her one of “Jersey’s 20 Biggest Brains.”

“Someone forwarded me the story, and I was reading through saying ‘I know him, I know her … wait, that’s me!’” she said. “I still think of myself as some kid from North Dakota.”

In her scant free time, Kathryn enjoys traveling the world and hunting for the world’s “10 Best Hikes.” She lives with her husband, Jeff Holmes, another Grand Forks native, in Plainfield, N.J.

Mark Chipman

Mark Chipman, ’83, ’85, is a successful attorney and businessman, but he’ll always be known in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, as the man who brought professional hockey home.

In 2011, his company, True North Sports and Entertainment, bought the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers and moved the team to Winnipeg, bringing the sport back to a hockey-crazed community that was devastated when the original Winnipeg Jets left for Phoenix in 1996.

In high school, Chipman’s dad encouraged him to play football instead of hockey. In 1979, he walked on UND Coach Gene Murphy’s squad. While Chipman says he was a “very average” football player, he says being on the team and attending UND might have been the “best decision I ever made in my life.”

“I grew up at UND. I went down there as an 18-year-old and was blessed to be a part of a great football program and got a world-class education in the process,” Chipman said. “The education, the football experience, law school and ultimately meeting my wife (Patti (Schlenker), ’85) and the friendships I established there are many of the most important friendships in my life today.”

After getting his law degree, Chipman moved to Florida, where he worked as a prosecutor and in private practice before returning to Winnipeg to work in his family’s car dealership business.

In the mid-’90s when it became apparent that the Winnipeg Jets franchise was in danger of moving, Chipman found himself on a committee of local businesspeople who fought to save the franchise. While the loss of the team was deeply disappointing, Chipman says it made him resolve to create an atmosphere that might someday bring hockey back to Winnipeg. His first move was to buy a minor league team, the Minnesota Moose, and move it to town in order to “keep the market alive and vibrant.”

His next step would be the most important. He worked with the city and investor David Thomson to build the 15,000-seat MTS Centre for $133.5 million. The arena opened in 2004, and yet it would be seven more years before Chipman’s quiet, behind-the-scenes campaign would bear fruit. The first effort to land a team failed, but Chipman says he and his partners gained valuable understanding of how the National Hockey League was working. That insight helped True North when the Atlanta Thrashers needed saving. The new Winnipeg Jets played their first season last winter.

“If someone had told me back then at UND that 25 years later, you’ll be running an NHL team, I would have thought they were crazy.”

Mark and Patti have three daughters: Sarah, Anne and Mary.

The following are the 2012 Young Alumni Achievement Award receipients:

Jim Kleinsasser

“Hard work is everything.” It’s one of Jim Kleinsasser’s mottos, and it’s obvious he practices what he preaches.

Last fall, Jim retired from the NFL after spending all 13 of his NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings after being a second-round draft pick out of UND in 1999. During his time with the Vikings, Jim appeared in more games than any tight end in team history, twice earning a spot on USA Today’s All Joe Team, which honors hard workers and under-recognized players.

“There’s a lot of sacrifice and moments wondering if it’s all worth it, but those are the moments you need,” Jim said. “You need to experience the struggles and hardships and motivate yourself to get through the hard spots.”

This year, Jim headlines UND’s Athletics Hall of Fame. At UND, Jim was a three-time first-team All-North Central Conference pick, a two-time All-American, and was a letterwinner in both basketball and football.

He supports UND student-athletes of today by contributing to football Impact Scholarships, and last season, he could be seen in promotions for the UND & Me Vikings Scholarship. “Division I is a different financial world than I was a part of (when UND was Division II),” Jim said. “It’s important to give a student-athlete that opportunity, the same opportunity that I had to play football and get an education. UND is taking some big steps, so it’s our obligation to do anything we can do to better the program.”

In the past, Jim has volunteered for Special Olympics, and now devotes much of his time and resources to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, whose goal is to enrich the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions. “Every kid deserves every shot at being happy and fulfilled,” Jim said. “My wife and I talk quite a bit about the innocence of children, and starting off their younger years the way they deserve.”

He lives in Mound, Minn., with his wife, Christa, and sons Carter (5) and Cayden (2). “My family is probably my most important accomplishment. I’m pretty proud of it,” Jim said.

Sheri (Kleinsasser) Stockmoe

Sheri (Kleinsasser) Stockmoe, ’97, ’99, was inducted into the UND athletic Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of her stellar basketball career (1991-95). This year, she is being honored with the Young Alumni Achievement Award for her life off the court as a successful businesswoman and supporter of UND.

“I think it’s very humbling,” said  Stockmoe of her latest honor. “The University means so much to me. My time there was completely invaluable. To be recognized at any level by a school I love dearly means a lot to me.”

Stockmoe is a charter member of the University of North Dakota National Athletic Women’s Leadership Council. The council’s purpose is to maintain and build upon the strong tradition of excellence for UND women’s athletic programs. “Too often we see a trend where women leave school and get wrapped up in career and family and all those things and don’t stay as involved with their alma mater,” said Sheri. “That’s something we want to increase. We want to help keep the competitiveness at a high level, and that requires scholarship dollars and different funding.”

Stockmoe is the co-founder and co-owner of On the Minds of Moms, a bi-monthly magazine distributed throughout the Red River Valley, and mailed to subscribers around the country. It’s far different from the sports training career she pursued upon graduation. “I don’t know that I ever had any intention of doing what I’m doing,” she said. But the idea for the magazine she hatched with a co-worker would not leave their minds, and they decided they had to give it a try.

Sheri credits her family and lessons learned at UND for giving her the courage to take a divergent career path. “My experience at UND, just the way I was raised too, you can’t be afraid. You’ve got to give things a shot. There really is no failure. There are just lessons to learn.”

She credits legendary UND coach Gene Roebuck with providing her with the tools for success. “It wasn’t just about making baskets, getting rebounds and playing defense. It was about working together as a team. Don’t quit. You are never that much better than anyone. You have to keep working as hard as you can and you are going to be successful. You can apply those lessons to anything in life.”

Stockmoe lives in Fargo with her husband, Stuart, and daughters Seely and Shya.