Forever a Bison

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

Story by Micaela Gerhardt | September 16, 2021

John Wold

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.

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