NDSU architecture professor known for stories, knowledge reaches 51 in class and counts – InForum

FARGO — A member of North Dakota State University’s elite senior faculty club says most of his friends are former students.

Ron Ramsay, who said he basically had to be pushed through the door of his first architecture department class in August 1971 at the age of 26, can probably attribute this to the deeper connections he made. with his students that he continues to forge at the end of his 51 years of teaching.

Matt Peikert, a current student from Osakis, Minnesota, said that in addition to Ramsay’s “wide range of knowledge of not just architectural history but everything,” he learned a lot more from the man. 77 years old.

“He told all of us that he wanted to know who we were, our passions and our hobbies,” Peikert said. As the conversations continued, the student said he also “learned a lot about life lessons” from the Chicago native.

Additionally, Ramsay’s approach to teaching architectural history is remarkable, according to his students and colleagues.

Another current student, Micah Swedeen from Cambridge, Minnesota, described it as “a different way from normal”.

Discussing a building, instead of just noting the name of the architect, the year it was built and the type of architecture, Swedeen said Ramsay urges students “not just to see it, but also to listen to it and feel it”.

Ramsay’s colleague, Assistant Professor Jennifer Brandel, said during the department’s recent field trip to Chicago, for example, “when he can hold court with his students and bring stories of humanity” to a building. .

It does this by talking about the life stories of the architects as well as what may have happened inside the building – the people or businesses that were there or the purpose it served in the community.

“It makes students better tourists,” Ramsay said.

“He really engages with the students, and that’s what makes him a good teacher,” Brandel said.

Ron Ramsay, associate professor of architecture at NDSU, in the architecture studio at Renaissance Hall in downtown Fargo on Friday, April 8, 2022.

Chris Flynn / The Forum

Ramsay said he calls his teaching methods being a “cultural geographer,” meaning someone who studies how places and spaces interact with people’s ways of life and traditions.

It can involve teaching things that “are not written down,” he said.

In some ways, it’s also about looking at historic preservation or architectural history from the bottom up.

As an example, he said, he believes the preservation of historic worker housing in a community can be as important as the grand homes on well-known historic streets.

It’s all of that history, that knowledge, that will be sorely missed, Brandel said, as Ramsay prepares to retire next year.

During what will be a total of 52 years in an NDSU classroom, Ramsay said he likely worked closely with 1,500 to 2,000 students.

He is proud to talk about some of his alumni, who rose to the top of their fields nationally.

There’s John Klai, from Osnabrock, North Dakota, and Dan Juba, originally from St. Paul, who partnered and specialized in gaming and hospitality projects across the country, but are best known for their projects involving Caesars Palace, Mandalay Bay, MGM Casinos Grand and Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

Klai has also been called a national leader in the architectural profession, according to Ramsay.

There’s also Lance Josal, whose father was once Fargo’s fire chief, who is the founder of Dallas-based 11AD, considered one of the world’s most successful and recognized architectural brands.

And Gordon Olschlager, of Fessenden, North Dakota, who has had a successful career as one of the top architects and historic preservation advocates in Minneapolis and Los Angeles. And Tim Dufault, who was the longtime CEO who helped lead the Cuningham firm in the Twin Cities to be one of the top architectural firms in the country.

Many other former students rose to the top of their fields, some of whom remained in Fargo, he added, including Mike Allmendinger, a downtown developer and chairman of the Kilbourne Group.

“I was getting calls from our former students and they were like, ‘Do you have any more? ‘” Ramsay said, referring to executives who have hired NDSU graduates. He estimates that Dufault hired 30 NDSU students.

“I think it has to do with the North Dakota work ethic. They pay you for eight hours and they get nine,” Ramsay said.

“Some of these students have really come out and helped change the world,” he said. “It’s satisfying…to have had a small portion of something like this.”

Some of his former students were back for a gathering in Ramsay’s honor on Saturday night at the Rourke Art Museum in Moorhead to mark his 50th birthday. It is tied to the NDSU School of Design, Architecture and Art Awards Ceremony, Alumni Gathering, and Arts Event.

In a look at other current long-serving NDSU employees on the payroll, HR department records show there is one professor who has hit the 52-year mark – Edward Deckard, who teaches plant sciences – and an associate professor, Timothy Petry, an economist extension of livestock marketing, with 51 years of service.

A few other employees are also part of the “elite club”, including Michael Miller, who was director and bibliographer of the Heritage Collection of Germans in Russia for 55 years, and Clarice Hackman, who has worked in library cataloging for 50 years.

Historically, it’s unclear how many professors have lasted as long as Ramsay, according to the human resources and public relations departments.

When asked if he knew any other teachers with such longevity over his many years, Ramsay could not recall. “Let’s just say I’m part of the ‘amongst’ group,” he said.

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Ron Ramsay, center senior, associate professor of architecture at NDSU, observes students in the architecture studio at Renaissance Hall in downtown Fargo Friday, April 8, 2022.

Chris Flynn / The Forum

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