• DeAndra Miller

Minot State University English professor retires after 51 years of teaching


Professor of English, Harold Nelson, has been a part of the Humanities Department since 1968, and after 51 years with Minot State University, he is moving onto the next phase in life — retirement. Though Nelson has given so much time to Minot State, he does not give himself much fanfare.

“I don’t try to think about it,” Nelson said, with a laugh, of the 50-year milestone. “Life is so infinitely interesting. There’s so much stuff to always do and pay attention to, so I’m more focused on the immediate, the here and now.”

Though he does not reflect often on himself and prefers to focus on the present, Nelson does think often about his past students and the lessons he has learned from them over the course of his career.

“I’ve learned every day,” Nelson said. “You learn compassion. You learn patience. You learn how hard some people have it and I’m just in awe of the students who persevere on through the years I’ve been here.”

Nelson enjoys staying updated on past students. He proudly speaks of students who have gone on into various careers, including one student who later became a judge. Nelson’s favorite moments in the course of his career revolve heavily around his students.

“It’s always gratifying to have students come back after 10 years, or 15 years,” Nelson said. “Eric [Furuseth], mentioned he had connected with a student who had me as a freshman in ’68 and he mentioned them recollecting on things ‘Nelson’ used to do in class and the zany stuff I used to do. It’s very gratifying to know that people remember and that they benefitted.”

Over the course of his career, Nelson noted his favorite class that he has taught was a “Harry Potter” class, especially because of the projects the students created while in it.

“One student was on the soccer team, and she did research on quidditch games played at various universities and it was so interesting because I didn’t know this before,” Nelson recalled with a smile. “One student wrote a 45-page creative piece on the untold stories in ‘Harry Potter.’ We had a party for the final and students made butterbeer and I made treacle pudding. It was a fabulous experience.”

Beyond just the students, Nelson recalled other connections he has made, including Minot State legends that current students and faculty may only recognize from the buildings and facilities around campus that bear their names.

“Gordon Olsen was the first president I worked under. I have so many fond memories of him,” Nelson said. “He taught me so much; we served on committees together. I was this 22-year-old kid and he was so kind to me, so patient. He encouraged me [with teaching] to do what I thought was right.

“Harold Aleshire was a wonderful guy. I knew Herb [namesake for Herb Parker Field] quite well. I had Herb’s daughter in class, and I used to play touch football with her husband when he was a student here.”

Many of Nelson’s fondest memories centered around the community at Minot State and the many opportunities to connect with students in different ways. From getting out onto the field and playing flag football with student-athletes in his younger days to starting a karate club for a time, Nelson expressed great care for his time with students over the years. In terms of what other professors can consider as they are coming in and he is leaving, Nelson recommends listening.

“I’ve taught workshops for teachers and I would go into the room in advance, and I would write on the board — ‘shut up and listen.’ That’s my main advice to anyone teaching,” Nelson said. “Listen to students. Respect them. You’re not there to mold people, you’re there to help them discover who they are.”

Overall, Nelson’s 51-year-long career comes down human connections and how much those connections have meant to him. When it comes to Minot State University, that is what lives on his memory.

“It’s the people. It’s the memories. It’s the warmth,” Nelson said.


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