Alumni & Business Partner Spotlight

Larry Jodsaas

A Pioneer in Human Relations

Larry Jodsaas

Have you ever read a book and then been disappointed that the author didn’t keep the story going? Or find yourself contemplating the different twists the author so skillfully wove into the fabric of the tale? The story of Larry Jodsaas is still being written, but the first few chapters will make the reader want to come back for more. As far as twists go, let’s start with a young man who hails from the Midwest, but when pressed as to where, Jodsaas simply states that due to his Dad’s job as a highway construction worker, they moved every three to four months.

By the time Jodsaas was 14 years old, he had already attended 27 different schools. That was also the year his father passed away. Jodsaas found work at a local gas station which he financially counted on for the next four-and-a-half years. He had stopped going to school and was headed in the wrong direction when a certain judge gave him an option of duty in the military or some time cooling his heels. Jodsaas picked the Navy and spent four years in the belly of a submarine, learning all he could about the electronic circuitry that had caught his attention.

While in the military, Jodsaas decided to continue his education and earned his GED in the service. After being honorably discharged in 1957, he began looking at colleges to continue his journey. Unfortunately, the first two he applied to didn’t feel quite right, so after unsuccessfully applying to North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota (UND), Jodsaas decided to give North Dakota State School of Science a shot. He completed a two-year pre-engineering program in 1960 followed by a degree in Electrical Engineering from UND in 1962. Since then, Jodsaas has been very successful in just about every endeavor he has pursued.

There have certainly been bumps in the road, but Jodsaas has a strong belief that if you “get your butt up early and get to work” good things will happen. He spent the majority of his professional career with Control Data Corporation (CDC) in Minneapolis, Minn. CDC at its height, manufactured the fastest mainframe computers in the world, had an international workforce of over 60,000 employees and was frequently ranked as one of the best and most admired companies in the U.S. Jodsaas served as one of eight Senior Vice Presidents at CDC.

Jodsaas began his career as an electronics engineer for CDC in the early 1960s, but then discovered that he liked working with engineers better than being one. Over the years he ran several computer businesses for CDC, focusing on opening up new markets for Control Data Technology. VTC, a subsidiary company of CDC, designed and produced new semi-conductor technologies. However, by 1988 this business was in difficult shape and CDC decided to completely take over the venture and put Jodsaas in charge. At this time, CDC was divesting its remaining hardware manufacturing units as it transformed into Ceridian. VTC was a business unit that no longer fit into CDC’s strategic direction. So Jodsaas found a partner and together they purchased VTC for one dollar in 1990. This sale was unique as they purchased the company AND its $17,000,000 debt.

In 1991, VTC was struggling to survive, but Jodsaas’s employees stuck with him and as it turned out, the demand for disk drive technology recovered quickly and the company began a nearly decade-long expansion seeing $18 million in sales in 1992 to over $180 million in 1999.

During these profitable times, Jodsaas was the first to give back to his loyal employees. He and his wife, Lynda, tell stories about how he would give his employees 15% of all the profits each quarter. VTC was eventually sold to Lucent Technologies in 2000. Keeping the manufacturing assets of the business once again, Jodsaas and his partner, Gregory Peterson, created a new manufacturing focused organization from these remaining assets called PolarFab. The culture within PolarFab remained intact, and the company continued to be very successful and a positive place to work. This facility is currently located in Bloomington, Minn. and has a workforce of 525 employees.

Jodsaas truly believes in giving back to his loyal employees, to the people that believed in him while he was working his way up the corporate ladder and finally to the institutions that helped him become the successful businessman he is. He funded the Jodsaas Center for Engineering Leadership at UND, a center devoted to fostering both the entrepreneurial spirit and a better trained, high tech workforce, and provided major funding for the Jodsaas Sciences Building at Normandale Community College. He has also served on the board of directors and contributed significant funding and personal time to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Jodsaas has three children: Sherry (Jodsaas) Dedolph is married to Brian and together they have three sons, Nick, Alex and Brandon; Rick is married to Stephanie and together they have two sons, Dylan and Javelin; Kim (Jodsaas) Polley is married to Bill and together they have two children, Kirra and Chase.

Jodsaas currently resides in St. Paul, Minn. and enjoys his collection of fine automobiles and the incredible view from his back veranda. He worked until he was 75 years old and has only been retired for five short years. Jodsaas enjoys time on his boat, traveling anywhere he wants and spending the winter months on the ocean in tropical temperatures. He continues to look for his next challenge and perhaps will write a couple more chapters along the way.

Nick Jenniges

1969 NDSCS Graduate of Electronic Servicing Gives Back

Nick Jenniges

Nick Jenniges was born and raised in western South Dakota until his senior year in high school when he moved with his family to Wahpeton, N.D. He graduated from Wahpeton High in 1967 and spent the next two years at NDSSS earning his Associates Degree in Radio, Television and Appliance Repair. Following graduation, Jenniges volunteered to serve six years in the National Guard.

“NDSSS was the right choice for me to get started at a time when I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do with my life, as I was faced with the military draft,” said Jenniges. “Not everyone needs to or is cut out for a traditional four-year college education. NDSSS is a great place to start your educational training and maybe even a lifelong career.”

Throughout Jenniges’s life, his teachers had a distinct influence on his work ethic and in turn his success. His fourth grade teacher started a pass book savings plan for her class. Jenniges still remembers the first time money was deposited into his account (interest) and he didn’t have to work for it. That event started his voracious appetite for saving and investing his earnings.

Nick gives a lot of praise to Mike Brophy who was in his first year of teaching at NDSSS during Nick's freshman year.

“Brophy knew the material well for he had worked in the Electronics field in Jamestown before coming to NDSSS” said Jenniges.

In 1984, Jenniges met his wife, Bonnie, through a friend. Sharing many of the same interests and a similar set of core values, it was only a matter of time before they were married in Rapid City, S.D. The Jenniges’s have been happily married for 27 years and enjoy taking advantage of living in one of the most beautiful places in America by biking and hiking in the Black Hills as much as possible.

When asked about leaving a legacy at NDSCS, Jenniges said, “I feel great about the gift we made. If it helps other people realize their dreams, it helps me fulfill mine. Thank you NDSCS and Mr. Brophy too! Go Wildcats!!”

The Jenniges’s are members of the Blikre Society. The NDSCS Foundation has defined three different ways to become a member of the Blikre Society. The first is by giving a cumulative monetary gift over $10,000. The second is a bequest, which requires leaving the Foundation a gift in your will. And the third is to work with the Foundation staff and your financial advisor to develop a tax friendly way to develop lifetime income and leave a legacy for the College when you pass away.

Dan Matejcek

AirCorps Aviation Co-owner & Fabrication Manager

Dan Matejcek

Dan Matejcek, a 2003 NDSCS alum, is part co-owner of AirCorps Aviation, a company that specializes in the restoration, maintenance and rebuilding of vintage WWII aircraft.

Established in 2008, AirCorps Aviation strives to bring forth experience, dedication, passion and award-winning detail that shows in every project they take on.

Located in Bemidji, Minn., AirCorps Aviation has quickly become one of the best WWII fighter restoration companies in the world. Their ability to restore a plane back to its original condition is simply amazing. And their attention to detail has not gone unnoticed.

>> Read "AirCorps Aviation Flying to Success" -- Precision Machining, Nov/Dec 2013

Matejcek grew up in Tyler, N.D., and after graduating high school, decided to attend NDSCS where he received his A.A.S. degree in Precision Machining Technology.

"I chose NDSCS because it was a local college and because it had one of the best CNC labs in the region."

When asked about his time at NDSCS, Matejcek stated that his favorite class at NDSCS was a CNC machining lab taught by Steve Johnson where he enjoyed learning hands-on.

One of Matejcek's favorite memories at NDSCS occurred during his second year: "We built a small engine from scratch as a class project--watching it all come together was probably one of my best memories."

Thad Ellsworth

Developer for Noridian Mutual Insurance Company

Thad Ellsworth

Magic might appear to make something seem real that isn’t, but alumnus Thad Ellsworth, 2003 Computer Information Systems graduate believes real life and magic go hand in hand.

“My education at NDSCS prepared me for my current position at Noridian Mutual Insurance Company in Fargo. After graduating I worked as an intern in the IT department, which led to a full time developer position for the North Dakota Immunization Information System,” said Ellsworth. “Eleven years later I still work on the NDIIS project. The NDIIS application is a user interface that allows healthcare providers to maintain and track vaccinations given within state. The magic was taking the skills I was provided and applying them to real life.”

As a student at NDSCS, Ellsworth advanced his magician skills by providing magic shows for students on campus. Currently, he is the leading children’s Birthday Party Magician in the Red River Valley.

“The magic was simple. I used the same skills I learned at NDSCS to develop my own application that allows my customers more information by way of my website,,” said Ellsworth.

Ellsworth and his wife, Melinda, have two children, a son Jaden (4), and a daughter Peyton (18 mos.).

Mark Vondrachek

Raincountry Refrigeration, Inc. Owner

Mark Vondrachek

Mark Vondrachek is the owner of Raincountry Refrigeration, Inc., a successful refrigeration company located in Bellingham, Wash. that builds custom systems of all sizes.

Established on August 15, 1984, Raincountry Refrigeration, Inc. serves the Northwest, Alaska, Central America, the South Pacific, the Midwest and multiple ports along the West Coast.

Over the last several years, Raincountry has found a special niche in the refrigeration market, installing custom-built incubator chilled water systems for incubation and thermal marking at Federal, State and Native American hatcheries. They are also well-known for their work within the marine industry—from small fishing vessels to large cargo ships.

Vondrachek grew up in the Grand Forks, N.D. area and after high school attended NDSCS. He received his A.A.S. degree in HVAC/R Technology in 1977. Vondrachek has fond memories of his time at NDSCS, including participating in the boxing club.

“I really enjoyed my time at NDSCS and I knew I was receiving a quality education,” said Vondrachek. “Even now NDSCS is known to have some of the best placement rates out there.”

Vondrachek’s son, Dakota, is currently enrolled in the NDSCS HVAC/R Technology program where he is a second-year student.

Peggy Hanson

Chief Flight Nurse at Sanford LifeFlight

Peggy Hanson

Peggy Hanson loves working in trauma, and she loves to fly. So she worked up the medical ladder, combined her two passions, and became the Chief Flight Nurse at Sanford LifeFlight.

Peggy Hanson, chief flight nurse flies a couple days a week to transport severe trauma patients or critically ill patients.

At about 4,000 feet and 150 mph, Hanson can be working on patients from car accidents, transporting patients from smaller hospitals to Sanford, or transporting critically ill patients to Sanford Health or other speciality resource centers.

In the Bell 222 helicopter, nicknamed “The Deuce,” or in “the little blue helicopter,” Hanson flies a couple times a week while also covering the tasks of being the Chief Flight Nurse at Sanford.

“Kids always ask, ‘Are you a pilot?’ And I say, ‘No, sorry, I’m the nurse - I just get to ride in the back.’ ” Hanson said, referring to her gray pilot-like suit.

Hanson grew up in Walhalla, N.D. Like a lot of high school students, she said, she didn’t know what to do after graduation.

She eventually got her licensed practical nurse status in Wahpeton, then became a registered nurse in Bismarck and got her master’s degree in nursing education at North Dakota State University.

She currently also teaches senior-level adult health nursing at Minnesota State University in Moorhead.

Q: How did you get started as a LifeFlight nurse?
A: I worked in a small hospital, and we called LifeFlight to come get patients, and I was like, “I want to be them. I want to be the one to go out and get the patients.”

Q: What is your job as a nurse like?
A: Every day is different, I never know where I will be or what I’ll be doing in the hospital on any given day. For example, I could start an IV in OB, then go to scanning with an ICU patient, followed by helping out in the ER or maybe to pediatrics - every day is a new experience!

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?
A: Seeing how happy not only the patient is, but the other referral places are that we’re (LifeFlight) there. The patients are glad to see us; the family is glad to see us, even though they never want to meet us. They are just glad we’re there.

Q: How has it been lately?
A: It’s been a weird week. We’ve been to Nashville and Wisconsin. We do go to the Cities or Rochester usually, Canada occasionally. A lot of times it’s to bring a patient who is up fishing or up visiting back to our area.

Q: What is one call you will never forget?
A: My first ride-along. It was a scene flight, and it was a young family that was driving, and the dad unclicked the seat belt to put the pacifier in the baby’s mouth. Then the car rolled. He called his wife and said, “It’s not good,” and he arrested in flight, and he ended up dying. And it was awful to see that happen to someone so young…that patient made it to the hospital and was pronounced there where he would’ve died on the road. His wife knew we did everything possible for him and any chance he had was made available, and I just knew that I had to do something like that that could cause an impact.

Lisa Budeau

Anchor for Valley News Live

Lisa Budeau

“I loved my time at NDSCS - becoming a Wildcat was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

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