Just as January marks the beginning of a new calendar year, for schools and colleges, September is a fresh start to a rigorous nine-month schedule. At Northland College, the campus comes to life after a summer slumber. Students return and classrooms fill as they have for over a hundred years. The focus turns to the future and all the possibilities in the semester ahead.
For the Office of Alumni Relations, the focus turns to reuniting all those who came before. For the past six years, September has featured Fall Festival: an all-call reunion for alumni and friends of Northland College. The weekend features opportunities to reminisce, reconnect, and recognize the remarkable achievements of notable Northlanders.
Working with alumni provides countless opportunities to learn about the history of this pioneer region and the community leaders who were ahead of their time. Those who recognized the possibilities for a little school, in a small town, on a big lake. Small communities like ours depend on leaders who recognize building relationships as the foundation for success.
Over the years many have carried the dream of Wheeler, Ellis, and Dodd; the founding fathers of both Ashland and Northland. For decades dedicated men and women have stood in the shadows of these giants, striving to advance the mission of Northland College and enhance the surrounding community.
On September 28, Northland alumni will honor Don Chase, a giant in his own right, with our first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award. A 1962 graduate, Don’s relationship with Northland began at a young age when his older siblings were students. The Chase family has a long history with Northland with seventeen members having called 1411 Ellis Avenue home.
In addition to being an engaged student, Don was a campus leader who managed the print shop, a commercial operation once housed in Brownell Hall. After graduating, he taught English down state for a brief time before returning home to start his career in the admissions office where he quickly excelled and advanced.
After years of traversing the country to recruit new students, administrators recognized Don’s natural ability to connect with people, listen to their needs, find connections, and develop mutually beneficial relationships. These skills were the foundation he needed to work in the development office.
Don continued his career of traveling for Northland College–this time to reconnect with alumni and develop relationships with donors. His genuine nature and integrity built a strong advancement office responsible for raising over $75 million dollars during his tenure.
Often away for weeks at a time, Don still managed to raise a family and be engaged in the local community. He has worked with the Habitat for Humanity, Chamber of Commerce, Ashland Historical Society, Chequamegon Bay Arts Council, Ashland Rotary Club, the Big Top Chautauqua Board, Wisconsin Public Radio, and the City of Ashland. Don retired from Northland in 2005, however, retirement didn’t slow him down. He continued to work with major gifts for five years and currently serves on the board of trustees, providing historic insights to help guide the future of Northland College.
These days you can find Don on the fourth floor of the Center for Science and the Environment where he is a champion for the alumni archives, spending countless volunteer hours identifying people in photos from over six decades of Northland’s history. In the 127 years since Northland began, many have stood in the shadow of Wheeler Hall, a living testament to the dreams of those long gone. Each year etched in her foundation a promise for the future and reminder of a noble past. In all those years, with all those people, we are so fortunate to have one Don Chase.
Jackie Moore is the director of alumni relations at Northland College and the organizer of Fall Festival, held the last weekend in September. Join the celebration for Don Chase and other award winners on Saturday, September 28, 2019 at 6pm in the Baldwin Commons. The Orange and Blue Dinner is free for Northland alumni. Tickets for friends are $20 and can be purchased online.