Former State Lawmaker And Longtime State Historian – Both UND Alums — To Receive Honorary Degrees At Winter Commencement Ceremonies Dec. 14

The University of North Dakota will hold commencement ceremonies Friday, Dec. 14, at the Chester Fritz Auditorium, and will award honorary degrees to two alumni — a retired state legislator and a longtime state historian — as part of the events.

More than 800 UND students are eligible to receive their degrees during this year’s winter commencement, which will be broken up into two ceremonies. Graduate and professional degrees will be conferred at 10 .m., at the Chester Fritz Auditorium. The undergraduate ceremony, which will comprise more than 600 students eligible to graduate, is set for 2 p.m., in the same location.

David Nething, retired North Dakota legislator, will receive his honorary degree during the graduate and professional degrees ceremony, while Hiram Drache, professor emeritus, Concordia College in Moorhead, will receive his degree during the undergraduate ceremony.

UND provides a live video stream of commencement to allow family and friends to participate in commencement, even if they cannot attend in person. Watch the ceremony at

The video streams will be available by Friday, Dec. 14, at 9:30 a.m. UND’s Cable Channel 3 will appear on the stream until each ceremony begins. If you have trouble seeing the video, please contact tech support at and chat with a representative or call 777.6305. If you are unable to view the commencement ceremony live, an archived video will be available on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

DVDs of the ceremony will be available at the Bookstore. To purchase a copy, contact the Bookstore at 777.4980.

Hiram M. Drache

Through a half-century of scholarship and teaching, Hiram Drache has contributed significantly to the historical record of agriculture and entrepreneurism in the Red River Valley.  He continues as an author and a Historian in Residence at Concordia College (Moorhead, Minn.), where he retired after 37 years on the faculty.

Drache was born in 1924.  His father managed a small cooperative grain elevator and his mother operated a boarding house in the small rural community of Meriden, Minn.  Drache spent much of his early years working at various agricultural tasks in an era of true “horsepower” farming.  He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 and served as the lead navigator in a B-17 bomber squadron, completing 32 combat missions.

Drache earned his teaching degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, a master’s degree in economic history from the University of Minnesota, and his doctorate in geography and history from the University of North Dakota.  He taught business law and social studies at his high school alma mater in Owatonna, Minn., from 1950 to 1952, when he joined the history faculty of Concordia College.

As a doctoral candidate at UND, Drache completed his dissertation titled “The Day of the Bonanza:  A History of Bonanza Farming in the Red River Valley of the North.”  A year after being awarded his doctorate, Drache’s dissertation was published in 1964 and became his first book.  It led to speaking engagements and requests to write another book, thus launching a remarkable record of scholarship on contemporary agriculture.

That first book was followed by 14 more books, contributions to another seven, and more than 50 articles.  He has also delivered more than 1,100 speeches in 36 states, six Canadian provinces, and in Germany, Norway and Australia.  Throughout his remarkable career as an author, Drache has relied on the strong editing skills of his wife, Ada.  They have been married for over 64 years and have three children.

Drache is acknowledged as one of the premier interpreters of the history and economy of this region.  He built his expertise not only through teaching, research and writing, but also with the hands-on experience of operating his own farm from 1950 to 1981.  His knowledge and enthusiasm have made history “come alive” for learners from college students to agribusiness leaders.

“This octogenarian human dynamo,” as a colleague described him, continues to write, conduct research, and share his insights.

David E. Nething

Widely known as the “Dean” of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly, Dave Nething retired in 2012 after a record of 46 years of public service.

Nething attended high school in Pingree, N.D., and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict.  He received his bachelor’s degree from Jamestown College in 1956.  Nething attended the UND School of Law, graduating in 1963 and serving on the staff of the North Dakota Law Review.

Practicing law in Jamestown, Nething first won election to the North Dakota Senate in 1966.  He became the longest-serving Republican state senator in the United States and was majority leader for 12 years.  In 1982, the National Republican Legislators Association honored him as their “Legislator of the Year” and in 1989 recognized him with the William E. Brock Award.  He has also been honored by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Affairs; he was reappointed by President Reagan in 1985 and 1987, and by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

Nething strived to be a “rational, logical, steady, results-oriented, tolerant” lawmaker and problem solver.  Over the course of his long legislative service, he has seen the state budget grow from $115 million to $4 billion.  He has served on numerous committees and the Legislative Council, and is particularly recognized for his work on higher education issues.  Nething is known as the architect of the plan to devolve budgetary authority to the individual institutions within the North Dakota University System.  He has served as chair and an Executive Committee member on the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, trustee on the Higher Learning Commission, and member of the Uniform Law Commission.

Nething has been extensively involved in professional and civic affairs, including the American Legion, Masonic Bodies, Rotary, the Elks, the State Bar Association of North Dakota, the Uniform Law Commission, the Presbyterian Church, and the North Dakota Affiliates of the Diabetic Association and American Heart Association.  In 1995, the Greater North Dakota Association presented him with their highest honor, the “Greater North Dakotan” Award, and in 1996 the State Bar Association presented Nething its Legislative Service Award.

Dave and Marge Nething have three children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.  He was elected to the Jamestown College Alumni Hall of Fame in 1987.

Nething delivered the main address at UND’s 1999 winter commencement ceremony.


Fred Wittmann, Director, Ceremonies and Special Events, University of North Dakota, 701.777.4267,