Bison Benevolence

Throughout their lives, Bob and Suzanne Lervick have been highly involved at NDSU. As students, their interests ranged from Greek life to baseball, modern dance, band, Angel Flight, the ROTC and more, and as alumni they cheer on Bison Athletics from near and far. In 2014, they established the Robert and Suzanne Lervick Athletic Scholarship Endowment to support a North Dakota State University student-athlete.

By Micaela Gerhardt | September 28, 2021

Robert (Bob) ’64, ’70 and Suzanne ’64 Lervick have always felt a special connection to Bison Athletics. Bob, a Life Trustee at the NDSU Foundation, played baseball and freshman basketball as a student, and he and Suzanne both remember the important role athletics played in the campus culture — even before Bison football gained prominence as a national powerhouse.

“Football didn’t have the reputation it has now, but the community still supported it,” Bob said. “I remember going to games where attendance was strong.”

“Back then, we got all dressed up,” Suzanne said. “I remember one night, I had a date to the football game, and I had high heels on and a nice wool suit. It rained through almost the entire game, and my wool suit was dripping wet!”

NDSU yearbook photos of Bob and Suzanne (Jensen) Lervick from 1964.

Bison Athletics continued to grow and evolve during their time in school, and the football program really started to build their junior and senior years when Darrell Mudra was named head coach. Mudra guided the Herd to a 10-1 season in 1964, just two years after the team went out with an 0-10 season.

"Suzanne and I believe very strongly in benevolence. Our faith is important to us, and our benevolence is grounded in our faith. We've been blessed to have the means to give back, so that's important to us."

Bob Lervick '64, '71

As enthusiastic Bison fans throughout the years, Bob and Suzanne established an endowed athletic scholarship in 2014. The Robert and Suzanne Lervick Athletic Scholarship Endowment supports an NDSU student-athlete involved in any sport, with a preference given to those from western North Dakota, where Bob and Suzanne were raised — in Crosby and Williston, respectively.

“Suzanne and I believe very strongly in benevolence,” Bob said. “Our faith is important to us, and our benevolence is grounded in our faith. We’ve been blessed to have the means to give back, so that’s important to us. It’s fun to be connected back to NDSU in this way.”

Bob and Suzanne met during freshman orientation week, and Suzanne remembers thinking, as she walked away, “Hmm…he looks pretty good.” Both were physical education majors and involved in Greek life — Bob in Alpha Tau Omega and Suzanne in Gamma Phi Beta (she even served as President her senior year). Bob enrolled in the Army ROTC for all four years of his NDSU education (it was required for all freshmen and sophomore men at the time). Suzanne, meanwhile, participated in Angel Flight, an honorary auxiliary to the Air Force ROTC. She also played clarinet in the Gold Star Marching Band while Bob was a member of the Rahjahs, a male pep club organized to promote school spirit.

Bob Lervick and the 1961 NDSU freshmen basketball team.

They went on only one date the fall of their freshman year, but their paths crossed so often that they became good friends. One of their favorite things to do was go out for strawberry pie and talk — sometimes about who they were dating, Suzanne said with a laugh. Eventually, their friendship blossomed into something more, and they married following their graduation. Shortly after, Bob began his military service overseas in Germany.

“Vietnam was really building at that point,” Suzanne said, “We had a lot of friends in Vietnam, and we lost a lot of friends in Vietnam. When Bob was called back to the States he was sure he was on his way, but thankfully he didn’t have much time left with his obligations and he was released.”

To this day, Bob can page through NDSU yearbooks and point to friends and acquaintances who died in the war. He and Suzanne consider it a blessing that he remained safe, and when he came home, Bob decided to return to NDSU to pursue his graduate degree in counseling and guidance; he said the strong NDSU community was part of their motivation for returning.

During that time, he and Suzanne reconnected with college friends and attended NDSU football games. Some of their favorite memories were made during Homecoming weekend when they gathered at the Elks with NDSU alumni.

“That’s when you really got to see your friends and maintain those connections,” Bob said.

Suzanne Lervick (then Suzanne Jensen) pictured with the 1963 NDSU Homecoming royalty.

Bob and Suzanne have a long history of giving to NDSU. Some of the areas that initially inspired them to support NDSU through philanthropy include the Gold Star Band Endowment; the Competitive Edge Campaign for Bison Athletics, a $32 million campaign to renovate and build athletic training facilities and performance venues; and Bison Bidders Bowl, an event that celebrates philanthropy and raises funds to support student scholarships at NDSU.

“The thing that I think really got us connected back to the university financially was an NDSU alumni event in Minneapolis, and they asked people to get involved,” Suzanne said.

“That, and the success of Bison Athletics that began in the 1960s and continued on,” Bob said.

“Then you run into people like Jack Maughan [NDSU senior associate athletic director] who just fire you up!” Suzanne added.

When they established their scholarship endowment for NDSU student-athletes, they wanted to leave it open-ended for any young person to come in and have an excellent athletic experience, regardless of their sport.

“We just felt strongly about supporting the athletic program and having it continue to grow while providing opportunity for young student-athletes from North Dakota,” Bob said. “When I see what NDSU has grown to be, in terms of what it offers, I’m really proud of that.”

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If you would like to contribute to the Robert and Suzanne Lervick Athletic Scholarship Endowment or receive information on how to fund your own endowment, contact Jack Maughan, NDSU senior associate athletic director, at 701.231.8984 or Stefanie Kelly, director of athletic development, Twin Cities, at 612.270.6171.

North Dakota taxpayers are eligible for a 40% state tax credit for contributions to an existing endowment or upon establishing an endowment.