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A tribute to Larry Selland

By Staff | Dec 6, 2013


Larry was a farm boy who lived three miles south of Rugby. He was one of eight children born to Gladys and Ole Selland. He was neither a great athlete nor outstanding student. He did have determination and he believed in himself. Larry was a good looking boy with a lot of charisma. There was never anything pretentious about him. He was just a good old farm boy from Rugby, N. Dak., who liked to have fun. Unknown to Larry when he graduated from Rugby High School in 1955, was the fact that one day he would achieve one of the highest honors in education.

I was asked why I am writing this story about Larry Selland. Larry was my cousin and I think his legacy should be told. Dr. Selland died of cancer in Boise, Idaho, in 1996. He served as executive vice president and interim president of Boise State University.

When Larry graduated from high school, he decided that getting a college degree was the right thing to do. He had his mind set on North Dakota State University in Fargo, and wanted to study Vocational Education. When he was asked by a school official what was in his future, he said NDSU was the place he wanted to attend.

Larry graduated from NDSU and received a call from the superintendent at Killdeer, who offered him the vocational job at that school. He was very successful at Killdeer and received the honor of Teacher of the Year. With that honor, he received a stipend to the University of Maryland, where he earned his Master’s Degree of Administration. He then came back to North Dakota as assistant vocational director in the State Department under Don Erickson, a former vocational director at RHS.

Larry’s journey took him to Colorado, where he received his doctorate degree. He was then contacted by the State Department in Idaho to fill a vacancy as director of vocational studies. The department was located in Boise, Idaho, which is also home to Boise State University.

The university contacted Larry to become executive vice president, which he accepted. When the president at BSU left, the student body lobbied for Larry to become interim president. The rest is history.

After Larry’s death, BSU bestowed upon Larry one of the highest honors any man could receive and dedicated the Larry G. Selland College of Applied Technology. This college provides practical, real-world training opportunities that help students learn the skills employers value most.

The College of Western Idaho, a two-year college, was founded in Boise in 2007. The main CWI campus was the Boise State University “West campus”, or the Larry G. Selland College of Applied Technology.

When my wife Doris and I visited Rugby last summer to pay tribute to my parents and to say hello to some of my relatives and friends, we stopped at the bank to say hello to Curt Tiegen, my cousin, and a cousin of Larry. My wife noticed the Backstage Gallery & Gift shop across the street, where I met of the owners, Deloris Koenig. Our discussion led to where my father, Bennie Sollin, lived when he was a boy, which was the Ole Selland farm. I asked Deloris if she had heard of Larry Selland. When I told her about Larry she was amazed and encouraged me to write a story about him, which I did.

Larry founded the Women’s Center at BSU. At his memorial service Dec. 11, 1996, Daryl Jones – a close friend and colleague – wrote a final chapter to Larry’s Legacy:

“I join you today in celebrating the life of Larry Selland or should I say ‘lives’. There was Larry Selland the educator and administrator, the devoted husband and father, the servant of his community and of his God. From the various facets of Larry’s professional and personal lives that shine forth in the memories of each of us who knew him, there emerges a balanced totality, a paradoxical jewel of subtle depth and simple clarity, which is the life and lasting gift of Larry Selland.

Larry’s contributions as a public leader to this university, this community and state, were many. I haven’t the time to enumerate them here. But perhaps the culminating moment of his public life came in that year and a half when he served as interim president of Boise State University. It was, some of you will recall, a time of uncertainty and anxiety, a time of division and turmoil, when it seemed that the expected course of the university had been suddenly and inexplicably altered. Pressed into service, Larry brought to bear on this awkward and challenging situation all of the attributes for which he is justly praised and remembered.

He calmed fears, he reached out to his colleagues internally and to the larger community externally, he reestablished trust, and he redirected people’s attention and energies on the future. In this difficult time, his administrative skills and experience served him well. But what served him best were his personal qualities. People simply liked and trusted him.”

When Daryl and Larry spoke for the last time, Larry said of himself, “I’m just a simple person.” Larry remained a person whose conduct was guided by the simple core values that shaped his North Dakota upbringing. Among those were integrity, faith and devotion to family.

And finally, Larry was a man of abiding faith. He had come to accept the inevitability of his condition and he had found strength and courage in his faith.

Larry’s legacy will endure forever in Boise and in all of our hearts.

Sollin lives in Oro Valley, Arizona.

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