|Dr. Don Friend|
I was born in San Francisco and lived there until age 11 when my family moved across the bay to Berkeley. I graduated from Berkeley High School and then attended the home town school, Cal, California, the University of California at Berkeley. Go Bears! I was an undergraduate in the student section to witness, live and in person, “The Play!” The Stanfoo (that’s not a typo) band helped us win the game as they charged on the field as the clock expired but before The Play was completed… I watched a trombonist get knocked over and his instrument crushed as the Cal ball carrier blew past and scored!
As a boy I went to San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s games riding the city bus… I watched both Willy Mays and Reggie Jackson hit home runs! My family had season tickets to Cal football to which we always walked from our home one mile from Memorial Stadium. After Berkeley I lived and worked in Alaska for a year, then finished a master’s degree at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I completed the PhD at Arizona State University. Most summers while in graduate school I worked as an Instructor for the Colorado Outward Bound School, teaching novices rock climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering, river rafting, and communication and leadership skills on three-week long excursions in the Rocky Mountains and in Canyonlands. Between the out-of-doors and the classroom, I’ve been teaching since I was 22 years old… I am proud to say that’s 34 years of experience in education. I still take students on a winter field-based course to the Colorado Rockies every February.
2. Can you tell us about your family?
I have been happily married for 20 years to Lisa who manages, and we are co-owners of, Tandem Bagels in downtown Mankato (come on in, we make them from scratch and bake ‘em fresh daily… they are the only genuine boiled bagels in town!). We have three kids. Brittany is a professional staff member at MSU; she is one of the Construction Project Managers in Facilities. Scanlon is a 10th grader at Mankato West HS; he plays soccer and basketball. Our daughter, Reilly, is in 8th grade at Dakota Meadows Middle School, plays soccer and is a member of the Mankato Ballet Company.
3. How'd you get to Minnesota State which has led to your current role as a Professor and Chair of our Department of Geography?
As a young married man who had just finished his doctorate with a daughter about to enter high school I was attracted to universities where I could responsibly and successfully raise a family. MSU and Mankato were the perfect fit! We arrived here in August of 1997 and I have climbed the ranks, from Assistant Professor, to Associate Professor and finally to Professor. In addition to teaching courses and advising students, I was Director of Earth Science Programs at MSU for 17 years and have published a fair bit of research including a recent book entitled, Mountain Geography. In 2005 my departmental colleagues honored me with their trust and elected me Chair… other than brief hiatuses for Sabbatical Leave and serving as Special Assistant to the Provost, I have served as Chair since then.
4. How do you perceive athletics fitting into the "college experience"?
Student-athletes are among the hardest working students on campus. Being a student is a full-time job, and being a competitive athlete is nearly a full-time job and not all are scholarship athletes. They really want to be here, they are very proud to represent our august university and the Great State of Minnesota. I have the highest respect for student-athletes, to succeed they have to manage their time and energy very, very carefully; if they do not, they will likely perform poorly – in both their academics and athletics. I really like the NCAA – DII tagline, “I chose DII.” The lessons our student-athletes learn about the importance of doing their very best, working towards a common goal, leadership, dealing with adversity and having compassion for others not as successful or fortunate, are most powerful and critical to the formation of young people. I hope our coaches use some of their time to stress these personal qualities. It is very nice to win, but to me, winning is only a very nice side-effect of the life lessons athletics provide. I also believe being a student-athlete can be part of the quintessential college experience; it doesn’t get more real at college than working to represent the institution by being a part of it while completing your degree.
5. Do you have a favorite Maverick sports program?
They are all my favorites, but Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Women’s Soccer and Football are at the top of the list. We have been basketball season ticket holders since the opening of Taylor Center… all along we’ve had the same seats just a few rows up from the scorer’s table and Maverick bench! I get to every basketball game, most every home Soccer and Football game, and try to attend a few Volleyball, Wrestling, Softball and Baseball games every year. Hockey… I have to confess, growing up in California, I’ve been to a few games when invited by friends and have really tried to get into it but... it just doesn’t do it for me.
6. Can you share a positive experience with a Maverick student-athlete you've had with in your class or as an advisor.
Gosh, I can’t think of a negative experience, they’ve all been positive. However, one student-athlete who was my academic advisee comes to mind. Karly Klein was a four-year varsity swimmer and team captain for two years. She was also an MSU Presidential Scholar and Academic All-American. I met Karly when she was a sophomore and enrolled in my course, GEOG 101 – Introduction to Physical Geography. Afterward she changed her major to Geography. One summer she garnered a National Science Foundation – Research Experience for Undergraduates scholarship… all expenses paid to study at the National Severe Storms Laboratory at the Univ. of Oklahoma where she storm-chased tornados and analyzed and published her own research. She became part of the Friend family… even babysat our kids! She is now the Associate Director of Admissions at the Univ. of Missouri – Kansas City and is married with two kids.
7. In your observation as a person who follows Minnesota State Athletics, how has the program evolved during your career at MSU?
I’ve been here 17 and-a-half years and have observed the building of Taylor Center, the new Meyers Field House, the revamped Otto Arena now Rec Center, and expanded practice fields. These were the first “shot in the arm” or “kick-start” of a years-long very purposeful campaign
to bring increasing resources to Maverick Athletics and to place all of our programs at the nationally competitive level. Well, it’s working! We have nearly 600 student-athletes and only about a quarter are on scholarship. This speaks volumes… these athletes want to be here because we have the finest facilities, the finest coaching staff and athletic administration, and all are a part of a very fine university. Increasingly successful athletics leads to an increasing profile of the institution across the nation which, in turn, leads to increased applicants for admission which allows the University to succeed in many, many ways. Add it all up, and “it’s great to be a Maverick!”
8. Anything else you'd care to add?
My maternal Grandmother, Kathryn Agar, was in the first Olympics and World Championships that included women. On the wall in my home is her team plaque. She competed in track and field running the 440 relay and threw the javelin. She held the world record in the javelin for 13 years until it was broken by Babe Didrikson. She also competed in and won the basketball throw, an event of the day, my niece has her first place medal… they were all silver then, no gold, silver, or bronze. She taught me how to throw and catch a baseball… my Dad always took it easy on me, my Grandmother’s throws hurt! When I am at any women’s sporting event I cannot help but think of my Grandmother and how she would have loved the opportunities available to girls and women today. I also think of her and her teammates and competitors in 1922 and 1924 upon whose shoulders women’s athletics stand today; I know they would all be most gratified and proud of how things have changed now 90 years later. I think they’d be a bit envious too, they would want to compete! Another confession…. Because of this family history, sometimes I get a little choked up when watching women’s, girls and youth sports; it makes me so proud, young people being strong and striving to do their very best. Our Maverick athletes are doing just that, striving. That’s why I can’t get enough of watching them and supporting them, their dreams are only beginning to come true and the lessons they learn as scholar-athletes is laying the foundation to build those lifelong dreams. GO MAVS!
To reiterate Dr. Friend..."it's great to be a Maverick!"