Germans from Russia program to receive $1.1 million
May 26, 2000
University Relations, Office of the President
North Dakota State University, Fargo
The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at the North Dakota
State University Libraries will receive a $1.1 million endowment
at ceremonies at 1:30 p.m. Friday, May 26, at the NDSU Main Library.
The gift comes from the estate of Marie Rudel Portner, a former
North Dakotan of German Russian descent, who lived in Las Vegas
at the time of her death.
"The endowment reaffirms the permanency of the program and it
reaffirms our commitment to the Germans from Russia heritage and
culture," said Richard Bovard, interim director of the NDSU Libraries.
"While there is significant support from people in the state and
around the country for the Germans from Russia program, this is
by far the greatest example of that support."
The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection collects, documents,
translates, exhibits, preserves and publishes resources about the
culture, history, folklore, foodways and clothing of the Germans
from Russia and their descendants in North Dakota and the Northern
Plains. The NDSU Libraries and the collection privately funded and
co-produced with Prairie Public Television the documentaries, "The
Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie,"
which was shown on the Public Broadcasting stations throughout the
country, and "Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia,"
which aired on PPTV and other PBS stations.
The endowment is intended for the program's general use, and funds
could be used for such things as travel for staff members to gain
oral histories of German-Russian culture, translation work, publishing,
traveling exhibits and staffing needs.
"The endowment will substantially enhance and enrich the activities
and mission of the collection," said Michael M. Miller, Germans
from Russia bibliographer. "Students, scholars and family historians
will have access to additional and significant print and electronic
resources, oral histories and archival materials because of the
"It was truly an honor to know Marie Rudel Portner, who would
always say, "North Dakota is my real home and I still love it there,"
Miller said. "She was a wonderful example of the strength, faith
and determination that characterize the Germans from Russia who
settled in the Dakotas."
Portner, who died last year at the age of 102, graduated from
Fessenden High School in 1917, and then attended Valley City State
Teachers College. She taught at North Dakota elementary schools
at West Norway Township, Wellsburg and Heimdal, before moving to
Spokane, Wash. She married O.H. Portner in 1922 and moved to Los
Angeles. O.H. Portner, an electrician, also developed property in
the Alhambra area. The couple moved to Las Vegas, where he was an
electrical/plumbing inspector for the city and county, and involved
in land development. He died in 1972.
Portner's gift is in honor of her parents, Simon and Dorothea
Rudel. Simon Rudel's parents moved from Wuerttemberg, Germany, to
Arzis, a Bessarabian town in what is now the southern Ukraine. He
immigrated to the United States in 1877. In 1882, the couple married
in Scotland, S.D., and they later moved to Wells County in North
Dakota. He is listed on the document for the incorporation of the
German Baptist Church of Germantown in 1902. They were both charter
members of the First Baptist Church of Fessenden.
Representing Portner at the ceremony will be Doug Reimer, trust
officer of the Nevada State Bank; lawyer Ashley E. Nitz; and her
great-nephew, Ross Rudel, an artist from Los Angeles.
For further information about the Germans from Russia Heritage
Collection, visit: http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc.