Ticket to the NFL

Athletic scholarships are awarded to student-athletes with the drive and passion to succeed, like pro Bison Easton Stick and Trey Lance. Meet a couple who invested in their dreams.

Story by Micaela Gerhardt | May 20, 2022

On January 8, 2022, under drizzly Texas skies, the Bison won their ninth FCS National Championship title in 11 years. Despite a snowstorm wreaking havoc on travel out of Fargo, thousands of fans made it to Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, to cheer for the Bison win — among them were Ken ’64 and Jan (Workman) ’64 Promersberger.

Surrounded by generations of NDSU alumni and students, and with the Gold Star Marching Band playing “On Bison,” the team rushing the field, and green and gold confetti swirling in the rain, the feeling was exuberant. Ken described it as a sort of homecoming.

“There are 20,000 seats in that stadium, and since the first championship title game in 2012, at minimum, 15,000 to 16000 of those seats have been filled with Bison fans,” Ken said. “In fact, one year Bison fans occupied about 90% of the seats.”

Contrast that with another number embedded in Ken’s memory — 257 — the number of people in attendance at one particularly chilly outdoor football game on Dacotah Field back in 1962, when he and Jan were students.

“The Bison lost every game that year,” Ken said.

“And we still would go to the games,” Jan added.

As long-term, dedicated fans, Ken and Jan established a scholarship endowment for NDSU football student-athletes in 2014. Their scholarship has been awarded to some of the biggest names in Bison football, including quarterbacks Easton Stick and Trey Lance, and most recently, wide receiver Phoenix Sproles.

“We are your ticket to the NFL!” Ken jokingly told Trey at a scholarship luncheon before he was drafted by the 49ers.

Pro Bison Trey Lance is a former recipient of Ken and Jan Promersberger’s endowed scholarship for football student-athletes.

Ken and Jan, who met through Greek life at NDSU, have been married for 57 years and in business together just about as long — first establishing an advertising agency, The Promersberger Company, then the housing development Rocking Horse Farm.

Their first gifts to NDSU were scholarship endowments named for their parents, Bill and Ann (Wick) Promersberger and Tom and Verna Workman, who all had careers in education.

Ken’s dad, Bill, served as chair of the department of agricultural engineering at NDSU for 39 years, so Ken practically grew up on campus. He remembers his dad’s “big shop” where he worked on engines.

“My dad, when I was a senior in high school, said I was going to do two things — I was going to go to college, and I was going to be in Fargo, North Dakota.”

It made Ken’s decision to attend NDSU rather easy.

Jan grew up in Lidgerwood, North Dakota, a little town in the southeastern corner of the state. Her parents gave her the option to go to any college in North Dakota (“She had a lot more choices!” Ken teased). Jan willingly admits that at the time, college for her was all about the fun factor — and not just socials or parties but the fun of meeting lifelong friends.

Their freshman year, Jan and Ken joined a sorority and fraternity, respectively, where they immediately began to meet people who they’re still in touch with today.

“The honest truth is, back then, for women, having a career was really not part of the plan. Usually, you go, and you get married, and you have children, and that was kind of the life we all expected to have,” Jan said. “But socially it was just…it was so fun.”

Apart from Greek life, Ken was the business manager for NDSU’s student-run newspaper, the Spectrum, and Jan was briefly involved in the Gold Star Marching Band. She played the saxophone in her small, hometown band in Lidgerwood, but when the marching routine advanced from straight lines to letter formations, like spelling out “NDSU” on the field, she jumped ship.

“It was really obvious when someone didn’t know what they were doing,” Jan said, laughing, “and I got out pretty darn quick! I much more enjoy watching the band.”

She and Ken have supported NDSU Bison Arts throughout the years, and this past year, they also made a gift to help the Gold Star Marching Band make the trip to Frisco.

“Music just adds so much to the excitement of a place, and they work so hard, those band members. Oh my gosh, the time they put in!” Jan said.

For Ken, who earned his master’s degree in journalism with an emphasis on advertising and marketing from the University of Iowa, investing in music and athletics is appealing for two main reasons: one, the scholarship recipients are guaranteed to be well-rounded people, and two, the programs get people’s attention.

“It’s certainly not all about athletics in any way,” Jan said, “but one thing athletics does is it puts NDSU on the map, the national map — it makes people aware.”

“It’s just like in the communications or advertising business,” Ken said. “You can’t deliver a benefit message unless you get somebody’s attention. Through athletics, or music, you can connect with a broad spectrum of people, people can come from all walks of life.”

NDSU yearbook photos of Ken and Jan (Workman) Promersberger from 1964.

After graduation, Ken and Jan spent several years living in other parts of the country. In addition to living in Iowa City, Iowa, where Ken attended graduate school, they lived in Biloxi, Mississippi, during Ken’s time serving in the Air Force, and in California’s Bay Area, where Ken worked for Ken Hofmann, a notable homebuilder who also formerly co-owned the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland A’s.

While the experience assured him that he wanted to go into the housing development business, he and Jan felt fenced in literally and figuratively. It was hard to meet and connect with people and they missed what North Dakota had to offer — friendly people with strong work ethics, and most of all, family.

When they returned to Fargo, Jan got involved with the NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association. She served on the alumni board for nine years and then became a Trustee.

“The Foundation and alumni board became a new, real source of friendship and social life — the same things that were important to us back in college,” Jan said.

She and Ken have recaptured the friends, fun, and pride they felt as NDSU students — and trips to Frisco remain one of the best places to feel nostalgic while also looking forward.

“There’s something to the North Dakota ‘thing’ that’s exemplified in going to Frisco,” Ken said.

For Ken and Jan, that “thing” is relationships, and no one does it better than the NDSU community.