NDSU Foundation 2021 Award Recipients

The NDSU Foundation strives to recognize excellence through award opportunities and programs. Meet the 2021 Award Recipients: Alex Gore and Lance Cayko, Sandra Strand, Alex Tröster, John Wold, Gate City Bank, and Barb and Mike Jones.

September 16, 2021

Horizon Award
Lance Cayko & Alex Gore

Lance Cayko & Alex Gore

Story by Nicole Thom-Arens

The Horizon Award recognizes alumni who have graduated within the past 15 years and have attained great success in their profession or have been engaged in outstanding community service.

Lance Cayko ’07, ’08 from Trenton, North Dakota, and Alex Gore ’07, ’08, ’11 from Rochester, Minnesota, met during their second year as architecture majors at NDSU. While they didn’t initially hit it off, the two classmates soon realized they each had qualities to complement the other, and by their third year, the go-getters were working together on all the projects they could and earned the title “Renaissance Team” from Professor Darryl Booker.

By the time they graduated, Lance and Alex knew they’d someday run a business together, but first they went their separate ways with Lance landing in Boulder, Colorado, and Alex in New York City. Then the 2008 recession hit. Both junior architects found themselves out of work. Alex returned to NDSU and earned his construction management degree. By 2010, architecture and construction industries across the country were still struggling, so he joined Lance in Colorado, renting the apartment above him, and the two founded F9 Productions.

“NDSU showed us that the answers are always out there,” Alex said. “If you boil something down to the fundamentals and then research through books, through history, through anything, you can come up with a good solution that solves the problem.”

The company has steadily grown as an architecture, construction, and development firm in Longmont, Colorado from the co-founders to a staff of 14. In 2016, Lance and Alex won the Architizer award for Architecture and Living Small popular vote for their tiny home, Atlas, the build of which was featured on season one, episode 14, of HGTV’s Tiny House Big Living.

“One of the big reasons we have been successful has to do with our generation,” Lance said. “We’re a millennial-led and millennial-hired firm. We gravitate toward using the internet so much, especially for marketing. That was one of the early things we did right from the get-go. No other architect was online, treating it like a business online.”

Being business savvy allowed them to earn top ratings, becoming the highest-rated firm for customer satisfaction in Colorado. They’ve also positioned themselves to build their own projects the way they want, including their new business headquarters. Their education at NDSU taught them the balance between the science and art of architecture to enhance lives through design.

“Architecture is not just art. It’s not just science. That has become so critical to what we do as a design build firm,” Lance said. “Being respectful of the science that goes into a building — all the structural engineering, all the mechanical, the plumbing — but at the same time having a balance and bringing the art to it is what has allowed us to become an international, award-winning architecture firm that people seek to hire to enhance their lives through a design.”

As they’ve grown the business, Lance and Alex strive to empower the people they hire. They pride themselves on developing employees and growing them into leaders to add to the fabric of professionals in architecture.

Alumni Achievement Award

Sandra Strand

Story by Nicole Thom-Arens

The Alumni Achievement Award recognizes alumni who have attained outstanding professional accomplishments.

Sandra Strand ’77 knew she wanted to be an interior designer before she entered high school. Her passion and love for the industry blossomed from an assignment in eighth grade during a six-week program on interior design. She was the only one in her class to score 100%.

“I remember one of my friends complaining, ‘Why didn’t I get a 100%? I had all the pictures,'” Sandy recalled, “and Mrs. Herstad said, ‘Yes, but Sandy had them all right.'”

At that point, Sandy decided to pursue a career in interior design. She never wavered and has enjoyed every part of the career.

While at North Dakota State University, Sandy learned the importance of a global perspective and that “good” design is about exposure. Through university programs, she was able to go to Chicago and Atlanta while an undergraduate. The faculty in the interior design program at the time also offered diverse influences with professors from Hungary, Texas, and the U.K. bringing their unique world views to the classroom.

At NDSU, Sandy joined Kappa Delta and, at the advisement of her mom, sought out jobs in the field while earning her degree. Upon graduation, Sandy set a career goal to have a project published in a magazine, so after a year in Fargo post-graduation, she left for Texas to gain the experience she knew she needed to advance her career.

Sandy worked in Houston, Denver, and Dallas in her first 10 years out of college, and she accomplished her goal of being published by age 27 while she was an associate at Neville Lewis Associates — one of three Hall of Fame Designers she worked for along with Andre Staffelbach and Art Gensler.

While at NDSU, Sandy learned the importance of a global perspective

In the mid-1980s, she became a vice president at Ellerbe Becket in Minneapolis, and she earned her MBA at the University of Minnesota. At Ellerbe Becket, Sandy began a specialty designing control rooms, but her biggest project was the Hewlett-Packard campus in Delaware. The 365,000-squarefoot project took three years to complete. This was Sandy’s first lab project, and through creative design solutions, the team won R & D Magazine’s laboratory of the year.

In the late 1990s, Sandy joined HOK in St. Louis. Shortly after moving, she jumped at the opportunity to transfer to HOK Hong Kong. She credits her Norwegian heritage for her sense of adventure, saying she believes she’s never lost the wandering Viking spirit.

“I thought, ‘When will I ever have the chance to go to Hong Kong?’ So I did it, and I was in Asia for 20 years,” Sandy said.

After 9/11, Sandy moved to Shanghai, China, to work for Perkins and Will and Gensler, where her team won the company’s first major project with Mary Kay.

Also at Gensler, Sandy and her new team landed the interior design of the new 765,000-squarefoot Dow Chemical campus. This project, upon completion, won the 2007 Gensler’s Design Excellence Award, which was awarded to one internal project per year.

In 2009, Sandy sought a new adventure working as an independent consultant with her colleague Chris Yang of CJ2 Design. Her first project was for Beijing Rail designing a control room for 300 people — the largest in the world.

For five years, she led the China-NDSU Interior Design Intern program, which resulted in one intern being hired by CJ2 Design in Shanghai.

In the years since graduating from NDSU, Sandy has traveled to more than 40 countries. Her belief that the success of design is rooted in exposure inspires her to continue traveling to see the beautiful designs of man and nature.

Henry L. Bolley Academic Achievement Award

Alex Tröster

Story by Nicole Thom-Arens

The Henry L. Bolley Academic Achievement Award honors individuals who have attained noted achievements in the area of education as teachers, researchers, and/or administrators.

When Alex Tröster ’86 came to NDSU from Zimbabwe in the mid1980s, he was expecting to see live bison and a soccer team instead of American football. His first winter in Fargo saw the historic blizzard of 1984, during which he was famous for wearing sandals around campus.

Despite these few miscalculations, Alex remembers his time at NDSU fondly. Born in Austria, where he lived for his first 10 years, Alex spent much of his teens and early twenties in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa and was part of one of the first graduating classes from the newly renamed University of Zimbabwe. His interest in the brain inspired him to study psychology, and his pursuit of graduate studies in neuropsychology and health psychology led him to NDSU.

“I came to NDSU because it was one of the few programs that actually had neuropsychology and health psychology at a master’s level,” Alex recalled.

After earning his master’s degree, Alex continued his education at the University of California San Diego and San Diego State University thanks in part to a recommendation from NDSU professor Bill Beatty.

“Bill Beatty was my main mentor at NDSU. He had actually been at San Diego and done research there, so it helped me to establish a connection with the people in San Diego, and I’m sure his recommendation was pretty instrumental in me getting a place in San Diego for a Ph.D. program,” Alex said.

Alex’s area of expertise is neuropsychology and much of his research deals with deep brain stimulation in people with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. He developed a questionnaire on quality of life for essential tremor exams, which is used to assess effects of treatments. The questionnaire has been adopted by the Movement Disorder Society as a standard instrument used around the world.

Alex’s career has taken him across the U.S. with positions held at various universities, including the University of North Carolina School of Medicine where he served as co-director of the National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence. Since 2012, he’s been at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where he is chair of the neuropsychology department. He served the National Academy of Neuropsychology for five years as president elect, president, and past president and has served on the International Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Society taskforce for mild cognitive impairment of Parkinson’s Disease.

Alex has published more than 200 scientific journal articles and book chapters and edited two books. He also served as a reviewer for the National Institute of Health and is an associate editor for the Journal of International Neuropsychological Society. Alex is the recipient of the National Academy of Neuropsychology’s Early Career Award and its award for research contributions to clinical neuropsychology.

Through all his work, Alex says his first major stop in the U.S. — Fargo — left such an impression that he’s stayed in America all these years — of course, his then wife-to-be, Kristy, also had a hand in this decision. “There are lots of stereotypes when you come from a different country,” Alex recalled. “Fargo taught me that the stereotypes don’t always fit and it’s not just somebody’s culture that counts but also their individual differences. People can just be marvelous — you sometimes get the unexpected.”

Alex credits NDSU for its excellent teaching and marvelous people.

Service Award
John Wold

John Wold

Story by Micaela Gerhardt

The Service Award recognizes individuals who have played a vital role as volunteer fundraisers.

Looking back, John Wold ’66 says there was never really any question of where he’d go to college. Growing up four blocks from campus, he loved to watch the North Dakota State University Homecoming parade make its way past his childhood home. Many NDSU students also worked at his dad’s drugstore in Moorhead, Minnesota, and John, who says he worked there from the time he was old enough to see over the counter, always admired them.

“I’ve been a Bison fan since I was a fan of anything,” John said. “NDSU has always been a part of my life.”

While attending NDSU, two faculty members encouraged John to get involved in undergraduate research. He seized the opportunity and conducted research on the invention of ACE inhibitors, a medication used to treat high blood pressure.

“I had lots of opportunities to learn and to make mistakes,” John said, laughing, “and that encouraged me to take a lot of additional courses which were available but not necessarily required in the curriculum at the time — and that just set me off on my career in research.”

After graduating from NDSU with a degree in pharmacy and earning his Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Iowa, John secured a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, England. When his fellowship ended, he took a job with the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and moved to its headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. John worked with Eli Lilly for 28 years, beginning in a laboratory, then serving in several research management positions in Indianapolis and Greenfield, Indiana, and as managing director of Lilly Research Centre Limited near Windlesham, England. He retired from the position of Vice President of Research Acquisition in 2000.

"I've been a Bison fan since I was a fan of anything."

John Wold

As an alumnus, John has remained highly involved with NDSU. He and his wife, Susan, have helped connect alumni back to NDSU and increased philanthropic support for the University. Early on, John made a gift to the Pharmacy Building Excellence Campaign to support the renovation of Sudro Hall. He was awarded the Alumni Achievement Award in 1991 and joined the NDSU Foundation as a Trustee in 2001. In 2002, he began serving as chair of the NDSU Foundation Grants Committee where he gained insight into campus programs and initiatives in need of support.

“It provided a great window into all the things that were going on at the University and the kinds of needs there were,” John said. “I had a really good feel for the sort of things students were doing because the grants often went to support research projects that employed undergraduate students.”

In 2005, he and Susan established a scholarship endowment to support students studying abroad. Because John’s own experience of traveling abroad and conducting research was so impactful, he felt it was a natural way to give back and extend life-changing opportunities to current and future NDSU students.

“NDSU opened me up to new possibilities with my pharmacy degree, and that’s what got me started on my career,” John said. “I feel I owe NDSU for that, and I like to see other students have that kind of opportunity as well.”

Throughout the years, John and Susan have supported Bison Bidders Bowl by donating personally-guided fishing charters near Marco Island, Florida, and custom-designed fishing rods for the auction, which helps raise funds to support scholarships.

In addition to his philanthropy, John enjoys connecting people with NDSU. He stays in touch with friends he made in Kappa Psi, NDSU’s pharmacy fraternity, and other NDSU alumni. He also gladly organizes trips to Frisco, Texas, hosts alumni events at his home in Florida, and shares stories about NDSU with people he meets on his travels.

Partner in Excellence Award
Gate City Bank

Gate City Bank

Story by Nicole Thom-Arens

The Partner in Excellence Award recognizes a corporation, foundation, or organization that has given significant support as well as demonstrated inspirational philanthropic giving to the university.

Gate City Bank’s unique partnership with North Dakota State University stems, in large part, from Steve Swiontek ’78, ‘06, chair of the board at Gate City Bank, who served as student body president while at NDSU.

When he became the Bank’s President and CEO in 2000, Steve recognized how closely Gate City Bank’s mission aligned with NDSU’s land-grant mission to the state.

“Steve and all of us at Gate City Bank truly believe in our purpose, which is to create a better way of life for customers, communities, and fellow team members,” Kim Meyer, executive vice president, chief human resources officer, said. “It’s remarkable how NDSU creates a better way of life for its students and communities every day, as well.”

Gate City Bank has a rich history in Fargo and the region, and its dedication to creating a better way of life goes beyond banking. The first branch opened in Fargo in 1923. It has grown to serve 43 locations in 22 communities across North Dakota and central Minnesota.

The Bank’s commitment to NDSU is seen through academic and athletic sponsorships and support. One of the first projects Gate City Bank funded at NDSU was the remodel of Richard H. Barry Hall. Additionally, an endowment was established to ensure the facility is regularly refreshed and reimagined so that it can keep offering state-of-the-art learning for students.

Gate City Bank continued its investment in NDSU with funds for a remodel of Stevens Auditorium, which is now Gate City Bank Auditorium. The Bank also created unique financing agreements, valued at more than $2.5 million for Aldevron Tower and $4.1 million for the Nodak Insurance Company Football Performance Complex.

Additionally, Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, home of NDSU Bison football, plays a vital role in the program’s venue and fan experience. The Bank recognized the dominant force of Bison football before the dynasty’s legendary FCS Division championship run.

With the recent renovation of the Sanford Health Athletic Complex, the Bank again invested in NDSU student-athletes with the creation of the Gate City Bank Fueling Station, where they receive nutritional advice and all the ingredients needed to keep them performing at their best.

In 2019, the Bank supported those working to keep NDSU safe by investing in bullet-resistant helmets for campus police, an important safety upgrade that protects campus officers in the same way as city officers.

In addition, its commitment to NDSU’s students, faculty, and staff extends to numerous volunteer opportunities, especially for international students, and internships. Plus, the Bank partners with the University to offer My School Spirit debit cards, customized with NDSU’s iconic mascot. To date, Gate City Bank has donated $70,000 to NDSU through this innovative program.

“Universities, businesses, and communities all play a crucial role in supporting education,” Kim said. “We’re on a unique journey to continually make things better together.”

Heritage Award
Barb and Mike Jones

Barb & Mike Jones

Story by Nicole Thom-Arens

The Heritage Award recognizes alumni who have provided outstanding volunteer service for the benefit of NDSU.

Southeast of Bloomington, Minnesota, nestled in a wooded area — classically Minnesotan — sat the home of Barb (Crahan) ’70 and Mike ’69 Jones. It was a home they built together on the land they’ve owned since 1979. They immediately radiate a comfort, candor, and fun-loving humor nurtured for more than 50 years. While they are both pharmacy graduates from NDSU, they didn’t meet until Barb’s internship at Keller Drug, part of the Snyder Drug company, on Bloomington Avenue and Lake Street.

“Snyder Drug, at that time, filled all of its internships with NDSU grads because they knew we worked hard and were reliable,” Barb recalled. “I waited and waited until one store was left to make my commitment to come down to Minnesota. Mike was a pharmacist there. I walked in and met him, and a year later we were married!”

Early in their relationship, Barb would escape down to the lower level of Keller Drug, where the merchandise was delivered and the women’s restroom was located, to work on a project, a sweater for Mike, knitted in green and yellow — Bison colors, of course.

“Which I still have,” Mike said.

“He wears it at Christmas — it has holes in it!” Barb added, and they both laughed.

Mike was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and grew up in Bemidji, Minnesota, where he first attended college and majored in business and chemistry. He, along with three others, transferred to NDSU’s pharmacy school. Growing up, Mike remembers how easy it was to visit with the pharmacists at the independent pharmacies in Bemidji.

“You could talk to them easily and find out more about pharmacy,” Mike said. “Having access to the small pharmacies — the local drug stores — helped me decide.”

Barb, a native Fargonian — born and raised — wanted a career but didn’t want to go the traditional route. She was one of 10 women in the pharmacy program of about 110 at the time.

“We were the early trendsetters in a mostly male profession,” Barb said. “I knew that I would come out with a strong education with an ability to have a job — a good profession, a lifelong profession. I knew pharmacy would be able to provide for me. I wasn’t thinking I’d get married or anything; I just wanted to have a career, and I felt a career in pharmacy was a really strong avenue for me to pursue.”

Barb lived at home and joined Kappa Delta sorority, and she’s kept her strong affinity to NDSU all these years.

“She hasn’t missed one Homecoming since we graduated,” Mike said. “I missed one, but she’s forgiven me. Even during COVID, we tuned into Bison Bidders Bowl virtually.”

"If you're able to give back and see how other people are giving back, you just get inspired by their stories."

Barb Jones

That passion for their alma mater is part of the reason Barb and Mike are being celebrated as the 2021 Heritage Award recipients at Evening of Distinction. The award recognizes alumni who have provided outstanding volunteer service for the benefit of North Dakota State University. Barb has served as an NDSU Foundation Trustee since 1995, and she and Mike serve as In Our Hands campaign ambassadors.

“Meeting alumni with the same passion for NDSU at different events has been the most enjoyable and heartwarming — you’re like a family,” Barb said.

The couple’s connection to NDSU has remained strong through the Twin Cities alumni group, hearing from NDSU students through the telemarketing program, and serving on the Dean’s advisory committee for the College of Health Professions.

“We have three scholarships,” Barb said. “We looked at our passions: we both love music, pharmacy was a no-brainer, and we both love golf, so we have scholarships for women’s and men’s golf, the arts, and pharmacy. Golf came first. I think that’s kind of an unsung area — you’re a team but you’re an individual. It builds character, honesty, integrity.”

“It’s a sport where you’ll call a penalty on yourself,” Mike added.

Both Barb and Mike worked throughout college, and they understand students are facing different circumstances today with increased costs.

“When I was in school, I worked at the Elks Club as a bartender,” Mike said. “It’s nice to give to students so they don’t have to worry about how to get the money to get through school.”

“I worked at the metabolism lab as a student, so it just helps. It’s so competitive for students right now and it’s so expensive,” Barb added.

Through their volunteering, they’ve also met fellow alumni who were giving back, and that was inspiring.

“The people that we got to know were all philanthropic — they were generous and were giving, too,” Mike said.

“If you’re able to give back and you see how other people are giving back, you just get inspired by their stories,” Barb said.

While working as pharmacists, the Joneses also launched their own business. Mike, led by his entrepreneurial spirit, started developing products customers were asking for but were not available on the market. The first product he developed was cocoa butter bars. They slowly grew the company, Gallipot, and were eventually manufacturing a number of products. In 2010, a Dutch company, Fagron, purchased Gallipot, which now operates under the Fagron name.

“We had a good division,” Barb said. “Mike was the mad scientist and did the regulatory issues and worked with the government and FDA. He had a calm, cool head about him. He was in charge of the manufacturing and production, and I was in charge of the purchasing, receiving, accounting, HR, and front office. It worked out really well because it balanced our strengths.”

In 1990, Barb became president of the Minnesota Pharmacists Association — she was only the second woman president in the group’s more than 100- year history.

As they reflected on their successes, Mike made a clear connection back to NDSU.

“A lot of those skills, like compounding, we learned from NDSU, so it makes sense to give back what we received.”

A love of NDSU was palpable in Barb and Mike as they reminisced about meeting people on vacations with connections to NDSU, running into strangers in the Twin Cities who knew former classmates, meeting young people from Minnesota who attend NDSU today, and recruiting their Arizona neighbors as Bison fans even though they’re not alumni. The Joneses epitomize that something special about Bison Nation we often talk about as alumni and friends of the University.