A crowd of about 70 turned out Aug. 3, 2011 to dedicate a bust of George H. Walsh, the founder of the University of North Dakota and the person most responsible for the University being located in Grand Forks.
Members of the Walsh family assisted President Robert Kelley in dedicating the bust by lifting a Kelly green ribbon draped around the bust. The pedestal and bronze bust of Walsh weighing nearly 1,500 pounds is located just outside the northeast door of Twamley Hall, on the campus quad where the dedication was held. It was created by Minnesota sculptor Heidi J. Hoy.
“It is fitting and proper that a bust of Mr. Walsh be prominently displayed on a site where faculty, students and staff are periodically reminded of his significant contribution to the founding of UND,” said Robert Boyd, chair of the UND 125th Anniversary Committee and retired vice president for student affairs.
Other than naming a residence hall after Walsh in the 1962, he received little recognition for the important role he played as a Dakota Territory legislator and having the vision to establish a state university in Grand Forks as other communities were vying for the facility.
“It’s about time,” remarked an emotional Patricia Walker, George’s great granddaughter. “I am so honored to be here today.”
With some deft political maneuvering, Walsh in 1883 wrote and introduced the legislation which assured that Grand Forks would become home to UND.
“Grand Forks could have been home to a penitentiary or a state hospital, but thanks to George Walsh, we are home to a university,” Kelley said.
Kelley, Boyd and Gordon Iseminger -- Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of History and member of the Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission – offered comments during dedication, as did some members of the Walsh family who were in attendance. Boyd recognized Jean Page as “the driving force behind encouraging UND to give this added recognition to her great grandfather.”
A dedication ceremony had been planned to take place last November, to coincide with the late Walsh's birthday, but inclement weather at the time forced its postponement.
In addition to being a colorful territorial legislator, Walsh was editor and owner of the Plaindealer, the first newspaper in the Red River Valley, which was later bought out by the Grand Forks Herald. He went on to be a land developer.
According to the history of UND at www.und.edu, Walsh submitted to the Dakota Territorial Legislature "A Bill for an Act Locating the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks..." It was the first time the term "North Dakota" was used, as statehood was not reached for another six years.
The idea for the bust evolved through the 125th Anniversary Historic Preservation Committee, a body formed as part of UND’s recent 125th Anniversary celebration. The committee felt it important to recognize Walsh this way, as he – more than any other individual – is considered the founder of UND.
Committee members are Boyd, Dawn Botsford, Paul Clark, Patrick Luber, Peg O’Leary, Greg Vettel, and Fred Wittmann.