A reception in honor of Michael M. Miller's lifetime legacy at the Germans From Russia Heritage Collection
Michael M. Miller, Director and Bibliographer
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo
Thank you for wonderful comments - President Dean Bresciani, Dean Josip Mocnik, Tom Isern, Acacia Jonas Stuckle, Ann Braaten, Bob Dambach and Claudia Berg.
My compliments to Dining Services preparing for the first time at NDSU the delicious German wedding kuchen, pumpkin and apple plachinda and cheese buttons or kase knoephla. But for the beverages, food service did not include our famous German Russian Red Eye.
Jeremy Kopp, GRHC special collections associate, completed impressive preparations for this festive celebration and my thanks. We even chose the German recipes served this event.
I would like to recognize Major Donors to the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.
Marie Rudel/Weber Portner, was born in 1897 and grew up near Fessenden, Wells County, ND. She died in 1999 in Las Vegas at age 102. To honor her parents, Simon and Dorothea Weber Rudel, Marie established the endowment of $1.2 million dollars to the GRHC. I would visit Marie in the 1990s at her near to the Golden Nugget, downtown Las Vegas.
Dr. Philipp Reiswig, of Redlands, CA, grew up on a farm south of Harvey, where German-Russian Seventh Day Adventists settled. Dr. Reiswig has a deep interest in his German-Russian North Dakota roots. Dr. Philip and Joyce Reiswig have established a future large endowment to the GRHC.
My appreciation and thanks to persons who have donated to the new Germans from Russia Legacy Fund.
The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection continues to foster close collaboration with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, the Welk Homestead State Historic Site, and the Tri-County Tourism Alliance of Emmons Logan and McIntosh counties.
Thanks to the many volunteers within the Germans from Russia community in Canada and the USA who translate, research, host and promote NDSU and the GRHC. My special appreciation to the dedicated staff of the GRHC to preserve and document the rich heritage and culture of North Dakota’s largest ethnic group.
My fondest memories include the oral history interviews including Helen (Feist) Krumm, Hague, ND, who had to leave in 1944 during WWII from the village of Strassburg near Odessa to flee to Germany. Helen’s interview appears in Prairie Public’s 2012 documentary, “At Home in Russia, At Home on the Prairie”.
Sister Reinhardt Heck, Annunciation Priory, Bismarck, who immigrated at age 13 in 1914 from South Russia to a farm near Belfield, ND. Quotes from her interview appear in the book, “The German American Family Album”.
Fern (Renner) Welk, wife of bandleader Lawrence Welk, who grew up on a farm near St. Anthony, ND. Fern shared, “When I met Lawrence in church one Sunday at Yankton, SD, he said, “Can I take you to lunch?” I said, “Well if you take somebody else along.” Fern mentioned “Lawrence and I were married in April, 1931 in Sioux City, Iowa, at 5:30 am since the band had to leave early morning for Sioux Falls, South Dakota”. Tonight we have with us Dr. Lance and Carol Richey, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Lance is writing a new biography of Lawrence Welk in cooperation with NDSU Press.
The Journey to the Homeland Tours to Germany, Odessa, Ukraine and the former Black Sea and Bessarabian German villages began in 1996 and continues with our 22rd tour in May, 2018. The Homeland Tours have been lifetime experience for our Germans from Russia community and myself. This evening we have persons who were with us to Germany and Odessa, Ukraine.
Finally, the work with Prairie Public Broadcasting has been most rewarding completing nine award-winning television documentaries since 1999 beginning with “The Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie”. The newest documentary in 2017 is “Gutes Essen: Good Eating in German-Russian Country” with funding from Prairie Public and the Tri-County Tourism Alliance of Emmons, Logan and McIntosh counties. I especially want to recognize Bob Dambach, director of television and Prairie Public for our wonderful partnership.
Thank you for joining me with family members, friends and colleagues to celebrate these 50 years at NDSU.
Here you will see just a small sample of the many awards that Michael has received for his commitment, dedication, and generosity throughout his over 50 years of service in the state of North Dakota. Highlights of these awards include the 2008 Librarian of the Year Award from NDLA and the 2011 WOW Award from the American Association for State and Local History.
Michael has co-executive produced all nine television documentaries in the award-winning Germans from Russia series. The Telly Award you see here is one of the many that was awarded to honor excellence in video and television. The documentaries have received numerous other awards throughout the years, including the 2012 Aurora Awards Platinum Best in Show in the historical category for At Home in Russia, At Home on the Prairie.
The GRHC houses and preserves a large and impressive collection of manuscripts, photographs, and textiles, due to Michael's commitment to the preservation of the heritage and culture of the Germans from Russia. This banner represents the recent addition of digitization projects taken on by the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection under Michael's direction. The digitized Homesteads of North Dakota Collection consists of over 4,500 images of early North Dakota homestead that were donated by longtime colleague and friend, Father William C. Sherman.
Michael pioneered the creation of German-Russian ancestral heritage tours. Beginning in 1996, Michael has now led twenty-one Journey to the Homeland Tours. Over 500 people have traveled to their German-Russian ancestral villages with Michael and interest in the tours continues to grow. The next tour is scheduled for May 16-26, 2018.
A major focus of Michael's work has been publishing and translating books that focus on the Germans from Russia. Here you can peruse Researching the Germans from Russia, compiled by Michael, as well as a small sample of other books that the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection has published under Michael's direction.
"Good evening! My name is Joe Mocnik and I am serving as Dean of Libraries here.
"It is my distinct pleasure to welcome all of you tonight to the celebration of Michael Miller’s 50th anniversary of his continuous employment with the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at the North Dakota State University Libraries.
"Before we get started, please join me in expressing sincere appreciation to all who have made the tonight event possible. Special thanks go to all Library staff, especially Jeremy and Amanda who worked on ensuring that everything is ready for tonight. Thank you to the NDSU Alumni Foundation for allowing us to use this beautiful space. Also, special thanks go to the NDSU catering for preparing the food according the traditional German recipes that were provided by GRHC. Well done!
"Since we are celebrating a half a century of Michael’s dedication and labor of love, let me read an excerpt from the Kahlil Gibran’s poem On Time that captures desire to cherish the past while we anticipate the future:
And the astronomer said, Master, what of time? And he answered: You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable. You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons. Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing. Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness, and knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream… But if in your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons, And let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.
And he answered: You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.
You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons.
Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.
Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness, and knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream…
But if in your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons,
And let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing."
"We’re here today to celebrate a contribution to a university, and to a profession, and to a passion -- that is a little hard for many of us to fully grasp. A lifework with few parallels.
"Let me frame it in another way; we are here to celebrate a gift to our University and the citizens we serve. That gift has involved love and passion on a very human level, combined with the collection and dissemination of story about a group of people, and their culture, that might very well never otherwise been collected, preserved and shared in perpetuity. Conversely, it might very well have been lost for eternity.
"The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection has become an important piece of what places NDSU in the top ranks of universities nation-wide.
"But “important” almost seems a slight to what it has taken to collect and preserve this collection.
"Had it been treated simply as a job – a transient role to be filled until another role emerges – would have been typical, understandable, and perhaps if done well, even commendable. But to contribute 50 years of one’s career, so goes above and beyond what is “typical,” that I have trouble finding the superlatives warranted.
"Suffice to say that Michael hasn’t just contributed 50 years of his career to us, but rather 50 years of his life. He has poured his heart and soul in to the project in a way that only someone consumed with his work can. His selfless sacrifice sets a bar that few of us will ever be able to achieve, and in honesty, many of us would more likely shy away from.
"But just a brief conversation with Michael Miller gives you a glimpse in to a person with an enthusiasm and passion for his work that it is difficult if not impossible to separate from his life. My strong sense is that they have in fact married and become one in the same.
"Thank you Michael. It is an extraordinary privilege and opportunity to work with you, and to have you continue a lifetime legacy that is still in the making."
"First, compliments and thank you to the NDSU Libraries for the support and autonomy given to Michael and the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection to develop a world class program. The 50 year effort of collecting and documenting the Germans from Russia in ND, the region, the US, the homeland and the world is one of the best projects I have seen. It is a program that puts NDSU on the world map.
"A few highlights of Michael Miller’s association with the State Historical Society include:
"Michael’s legacy was recognized by the State Historical Society in 2010, along with Tom Isern that same year, as a Heritage Profile Honor Award recipient. The award recognizes individuals who have made a lasting or significant contribution in preserving, interpreting, researching, publishing, and promoting the knowledge and understanding of the history of North Dakota, and have demonstrated long-term dedication and personal commitment in pursuit of these goals. Michael’s career has centered, not on a few of these goals, but on all of these goals.
"On the national level, in 2011, the SHSND nominated the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection for the annual American Association of State & Local History’s Excellence in Leadership Award. Not only did they win the Leadership Award, they won the WOW! Award. A rarely presented award that recognizes projects and programs that are highly inspirational have exceptional scholarship and are exceedingly entrepreneurial. The collections, educational and public programs, oral histories, exhibits, books, translations, travels, tours, radio programs, videos, and social media that Michael, his colleagues and partners have produced are remarkable and a leading example in the country of what one person’s passion and commitment can accomplish.
"In 2015, Michael and many others were instrumental in creating the grassroots network that voiced support for the acquisition of the Welk site. Also here this evening is Secretary of State Al Jaeger, also a German from Russia, and a member of the Historical Board that voted to acquire the Welk Homestead site making it our newest state historic site. In the heart of German Russian Country the Welk site became an anchor as a regional heritage tourism destination in south-central ND. Michael was also a founding member of the Friends of the Welk site and the Tri County Tourism Alliance. His ongoing commitment, leadership, and support are needed and much appreciated in German-Russian country.
"Michael, the GRHC and the SHSND have collaborated on numerous projects for years, there have been so many I can’t remember the first time we met. But that is not important - what is important is our continuing partnerships and Michael’s vision, dedication, and tenacity continuing into the future on behalf of the Germans from Russia.
"Congratulation Michael on 50 very important years and congratulations to the Germans from Russia for the champion you have in Michael M. Miller."
Acacia worked as a student at the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection from
2002 - 2006 and again, from 2007 - 2012 as special collection associate.
"I am Acacia Stuckle currently a NDSU Extension Agent in Emmons County. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Michael Miller both directly and indirectly over the past 15 years. I spent 10 years working closely with Michael in the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at NDSU Libraries.
"I first met Michael when I was a college freshman at NDSU. I was assigned work study at the library and went there my first day of class to set up a schedule. I envisioned I’d be shelving books and that sort of thing.
"Upon my arrival, I was sent to Michael’s office to work in the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. I later found out that Michael would look through the students assigned to the library to request students from German-Russian communities. Since I came from Fredonia, I was the perfect candidate. From that moment on, a spark was ignited in myself to learn more about my own German-Russian heritage.
"I had no idea the impact working with Michael would have on my own life and career choices. I’ll be forever grateful for my time and experiences at the GRHC. Michael is one of the most supporting and encouraging mentors I’ve ever had. He has taught me that no dream is too big if you’re willing to work for it.
"When you reflect on what Michael has accomplished the past 50 years, many words come to mind such as inspiration, passion, collaboration, dedication, etc. But there are two things that really describe Michael best to me.
"First, Michael is the “King of Networking!” Michael is always networking with folks, it doesn’t matter where he goes or the time of day. Because of his ability to connect with anyone, anywhere at anytime, he’s formed so many collaborations and partnerships.
"Second, Michael doesn’t accept “no” for an answer! Sometimes he’s had to change his plan or timing, but if he believes in something, Michael will see to it that it happens. He is resilient when it comes to making sure the history and heritage of the Germans from Russia is preserved.
"I’ve always appreciated Michael’s forethought into the next “big” thing. I remember the first time he told me he thought I should setup a Facebook page for the GRHC. It was when no one but college students used Facebook and we were definitely one of the first “business/organizations” to have a page. I would’ve never thought at the time how social media would become an entirely new way of connecting with German-Russians throughout the world. But Michael knew it. He is always a step ahead of everyone. The GRHC’s Facebook page now has over 8,000 likes!
"I have witnessed Michael give his own blood, sweat, tears and resources into making the GRHC one of a kind. It’s unbelievable to know the many scholars, family historians, educators and other folks that he has helped throughout the past 50 years of his work. It’s not possible to work with Michael and not feel inspired. He is the definition of what it means to be passionate about the work you do.
"His work truly reflects North Dakota State University’s mission and vision. Michael’s efforts and contributions to the research and preservation of the Germans from Russia are known and respected regionally, nationally and internationally. Michael believes in collaboration and partnerships. It is well documented in the many partnerships he’s created. Michael’s foresight, ambition and dedication to the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is unmatched.
"Congratulations, Michael. I’m proud to call you a mentor, colleague and friend."
"Good Evening. My name is Ann Braaten. I am the Curator of the Emily Reynolds Historic Costume Collection and assistant professor in the Department of Apparel, Design & Hospitality Management, College of Human Development & Education at NDSU. I am very grateful for the work Michael has done, to build the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection into a world-class primary resource that includes written works, photographs, and objects, including textiles and clothing.
"It is the textile and clothing collection that is the basis for my collaboration with Michael some 25 years ago during a 3-day tour for new faculty across the state with President Ozbun. On this tour, Michael guided us through Germans from Russia country in south central North Dakota. We visited the Lawrence Welk homestead, ate kuchen at the beautiful church of St. Peter and Paul in Strasburg and saw Iron Crosses at a GFR Cemetery. Michael was true-to-form, getting to know every member of the tour. On the long drives between site visits, Michael described the importance of this group and described some of the dress traditions. By the time we returned to Fargo, we agreed to meet to develop plans for collecting.
"Germans from Russia Textiles and Clothing that would be housed in the Emily Reynolds Historic Costume Collection and to begin the development of an exhibition of GRF Clothing Traditions that eventually traveled to community libraries across the state.
"Because of Michael’s roots and participation in the GFR community, he knew of the importance in collecting information from the German from Russians who remembered the GR first immigrants to the USA. Michael put his laser focus, incredible energy, and determination to gather theses, books, family and community histories and cookbooks, photographs, and textiles and clothing so their history would be documented and remembered. Because of his work, he has built the GRHC into a superb primary resource for future researchers.
"Michael’s vision and willingness to reach out to others to explore possibilities, has made him a central part of the fabric of our community at NDSU, of the state, and the world. Thank you, Michael! Congratulations for 50th productive years at NDSU and good wishes for many more productive years!"
"The top stories in the Emmons County Record of 23 August 1967 were two.
"The first story was that there had been a heck of a rain and hail storm on 15 August, laying down five inches of hail some places, playing hell with hay crops in the field, washing them into hug banks six feet deep. You and I, Michael, are inseparable from the land, and we still like to talk about the weather, don't we?
"The second story had to do with the realities of demographics in the Great Plains in our generation. Michael: the number of persons under the age of twenty in Emmons County had declined by more than two hundred over the past two years. You and I are members of what I have come to call the "Last Picture Show Generation". We are exports from our prairie homes.
"Sandwiched between the two spot news stories in 1967 was a smaller, but in the long term, more important one, accompanied by a headshot photo of a dark-haired young man wearing Buddy Holly glasses. We read:
A Strasburg native has been named to the faculty of North Dakota State University, Fargo. Michael M. Miller, son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter P. Miller, was appointed by Pres. H. R. Albrecht. Miller will teach library science, act as circulation librarian, and handle the library displays.
An honor graduate of Strasburg High School in 1961, Miller received his bachelor's degree from Valley City State College and then completed two years as teacher-librarian. In June of this year he earned his master's degree at the University of North Dakota where he was an assistant at the library and alumni office.
"You have told me, Michael, how in 1978 President Laurel Loftsgard called you into his office for a talking-to. Actually, he called you in to create the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection and to place you in charge of it.
"So, you and I, Michael, we have our ways by which we move along professionally in the academy, physically separated from our roots, but manage to remain in touch with them, even bring them to the forefront of our academic careers.
"Now flash forward to early 2017, the 13th of January, when you were driving us home from a meeting in Napoleon. On the road, I received the call from my elder brother on the farm that my mother had passed away during the night. We didn't talk for a while after that, and then when we did talk, in a gentle way that was appropriate. On arrival in West Fargo, you came into to join Suzzanne and me for whatever we had for supper. Before the meal, you said you would like to offer a prayer. And you did, a simple petition, but one filled with understanding.
"And this, all of you, friends, gathered today, is what Michael Miller is like. He is still, thank God, that native son of Emmons County who joined us here at NDSU in 1967.
"And Michael is indefatigable. He constantly reminds us, and I mean constantly reminds us, that the Germans from Russia are our state's largest ethnic immigrant group; that their history is deep, complex, tragic, glorious and in every way worth of preservation and study; that to pursue the preservation and study of German-Russian history and culture redounds to the credit of our land-grant university; and that the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is our marquee research collection of world class status.
And so: Go Michael, Go Bison, und Geh mit Gott, alter Freund, Wir lieben dich."
"From the Heartland." By Allan Burke, Emmons County Record, November 2017.
Vietz, Zachary. "Michael Miller honored for 50 years at NDSU by colleagues and guests." Emmons County Record, 21 December 2017, 1, 2 & 3.
"I am very proud of you and very grateful for what you have done for our Germans from Russia. it was a long road from where you started, but you acccomplished more than anyone could ever hope for. Congratulations and best wishes for your future."
"Congratulations on your fifty years at North Dakota State University. That is quite an accomplishment. I told my father that you sent a card and he wanted to wish you all the best. I remember very well how nice you were to us when we came to Bismarck in 2010. I will attach a picture of you and my father that I took that day [shown to the left].
"All the best for your next 50 years!"
"We want to thank you for your wünderbar 50th celebration. It was very, very nice. What an accomplishment you have achieved! All those who spoke really did know the attributes. Michael, a special "danke-schön" for taking the time to show us around the GRHC. We both found it very interesting and enlightening. Who would know that a "young boy" from Strasburg, ND, would have such an impact on preserving and enhancing the German-Russian culture?!"
"I enjoyed the years we worked together on oral history tape transcriptions from the Allan Spiker Oral History Interview Collection."
"Thank you so much for your tireless service. Many generations of thanks!"
"Thank you for everything Michael, congratulations, all the way from Brazil."
"I’m so happy that you’re being honored for 50 years of important and diligent work at NDSU! Truly, I don’t think there’s anyone in the United States who has done more to preserve, create awareness of, and celebrate the heritage of our Germans from Russia culture, history and heritage. Your work has made it possible for future generations to access and learn about our rich legacy of pioneering, first in Russia and then in the New World. As someone with Strasburg, North Dakota and Kutschurganer roots I’m particularly proud that one of our own has been so instrumental in sharing our story with the world. The achievements and contributions that our people have made in the societies they’ve adopted over the last two centuries will take their proper place in history because you and others have cared enough to make sure that happened and continues to happen. It will become all the more important as our assimilation continues and the old folkways, foods, dialects, music, and culture fade away into the future.
"The beautiful thing about your work, and what makes it so significant and important, is that it will live on long after you’ve left this world and gone on to greater things in the next. So much of our history, which may have otherwise been lost, is now preserved and available because of your work. As Dr. Joseph Height might have said, “Du bisch a guter Mann, Landsmann Miller!” I wish that I could somehow magically transport myself to the dinner honoring you tomorrow evening in Fargo. Please know that I will be there in spirit, congratulating and celebrating you. Hopefully we’ll be able to get together and make Maastub one day soon. Meanwhile, keep up the great work! If I could have been there I would have asked the powers that be if I could read this tribute to you for the assembled guests. As it is, this simple and heartfelt email to you personally will have to do."
"What an accomplishment. All of the Germans from Russia owe you a real debt of gratitude. I don't know if they all know it but it's an absolute fact. A lot of our history would have been lost if it weren't for you and you should be most proud of that. It was a real pleasure growing up with you and your brothers and sister in Strasburg. I have some pretty fond memories of all of that. Again, my sincerest congratulations for your fifty year anniversary at NDSU. That's truly an amazing accomplishment."
"Thanks so much for having me on the trip to Germans from Russia in 2008. It was a privilege and something I’ll always remember. It was so great for what you’ve done those fifty years and so deserving for the heritage of the Germans from Russia. Thanks again for the lifetime legacy for the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection."
"I’m not from Emmons County, but grew up on McIntosh County, just across the county line, so that is close enough! My sister-in-law, that Brindel girl from Napoleon who married my brother made the Red Eye. Enjoy."
"Congratulations and best wishes to you as a 50 year honoree! I am so appreciative of and thanks for you and all you’ve done to preserve and celebrate our heritage."
"I want to thank you for the 50 years of work you have done to preserve the history of the Germans from Russia. Future generations will appreciate your passion to record and document this unique ethnic group. It’s so thankful that I, along with family members took the trip to Ukraine and Germany with you."
"Thank you for all the hard work you do for the GRHC at the NDSU Library. It is only thru your efforts that this great Germans from Russia Collection was established and such a wonderful heritage in honor of our great heritage. We are also thankful to the Baumgartners and Berglunds that were so instrumental in helping us get the education that we received. We will always be grateful to them. May God bless you in the coming years."
"Congratulations to your on your 50 years at NDSU. We are so appreciative of your dedication to GRHC and the endless list of all you have accomplished for us Germans from Russia. It has been a pleasure working with your though the years and we also appreciate the opportunities you gave Ryan while he was a student at NDSU."
"Congratulations on your big anniversary. You are amazing, and your work is amazing. With great admiration!"
"I can’t begin to count the many times that trip to Ukraine with you pops up memories and thankfulness to my ancestors for coming to North Dakota and to you for all the work of dedication you’ve given through the past 50 years. Your foresight has preserved our heritage and I’m grateful."
"Wow! 50 years that is a life time legacy at the Germans from Russia Heritage. Thank you for that great tour to Germany and Ukraine in 2008. My family we are all so glad and thankful we went then. We all has a great time and it is scary now what has gone on over there. God’s blessings."
"Congratulations for 50 years at the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection."
"To a dear friend and neighbor our very best wishes in your 50th anniversary at NDSU. Reaching this milestone is truly “Wunnerful, Wunnerful”. We’re most thankful for all the good words and memories we have shared. Our fervent prayer for you that you’ll be blessed abundantly as the future years unfold."
"Oh, how I wish I could be at your well-deserved celebration. What a wonderful act of labor you did. Yes, indeed the trip regarding Germans from Russia was beyond perfect. I will always wish that my husband and I would have moved back to North Dakota. No truer saying than “Home is where the Heart is”. My heart is and will be forever in North Dakota. I’m now 87 years old and soon my heart will be in heaven. Love and prayers."
"May God bless you for all that you do! Congratulations on 50 years of work."
"I want to express my gratitude as you are celebrated and honored for your untiring and amazing efforts to preserve the history and heritage of the Germans from Russia. All of that would have been lost. What you did is remarkable in so many ways and I thank you and congratulate you. I rejoice with you! God Bless!"
"What an accomplishment you have achieved. As my grandfather once said, “Over and over I marvel at the blessings of my life: Each year has grown better than the last.” I hope this statement stands true for you as it did for my grandfather and I wish you much success in the years ahead. Cheers."