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Area family has a history of looking good in blue

Press Photo by Bryan Horwath Outgoing Dickinson State University senior Sarah Poswilko sits in Dorothy Stickney Auditorium on Thursday, the site where she will deliver the commencement speech for the school’s winter graduation ceremony today.

One of the marketing slogans used by Dickinson State University asks potential students if they are ready to “look good in blue.”

A bunch with strong ties to both education and southwest North Dakota, the Gary and Pamela Wilz family have been looking good in blue for a long time.

Joining her fellow fall 2013 DSU graduates for a 2 p.m. ceremony in Dorothy Stickney Auditorium, Sarah (Wilz) Poswilko on Friday will represent at least the third generation (more on that later) of her family to graduate from western North Dakota’s only four-year university.

“I pretty much always knew that DSU was where I wanted to be,” Poswilko said. “Even when I was young, my parents talked about DSU. I knew of other colleges, but this was the one I wanted to attend, partly because this is where they went.”

A Richardton native, Gary Wilz decided to pursue an education career path after originally graduating from DSU with a degree in biology in 1984. After receiving training as dental lab tech in Minnesota, Pamela returned to school as a non-traditional student at DSU to get an education degree a few years after her husband graduated.

Today, both work in the Killdeer Public School District — Gary as the district’s superintendent and Pamela as an elementary school teacher.

Though she’ll be a spectator on Friday, Gary and Pamela’s other daughter, Mariah, is a junior majoring in composite music at DSU whose eventual graduation will complete the circle for the immediate Wilz family, but the story doesn’t end there.

Gary’s parents, the late Chuck Wilz and current Bismarck resident Marilyn Born Wilz, both graduated from DSU in 1956 and, though, according to DSU spokesperson Shanna Servheim, it could not be officially confirmed, Pamela’s father, the late Fred Born, may have attended DSU in the 1920s.

Records on the Born family kept by the Stark County Historical Society indicate that Fred Born Jr. “attended Dickinson Normal School (the former school moniker) for one year,” though no specific year was listed. Servheim said a check of yearbooks from 1923, 1924 and 1925 did not feature information about Born.

Gary and Pamela both agree that DSU has been good not only to their family, but to the community of educators in southwest North Dakota.

“I’ve been in education for nearly 30 years,” Gary said. “As an administrator now, I still speak very highly and very proudly of Dickinson State. When my parents were there, it was called Dickinson State Teachers College and I think the institution has just had a rock-solid reputation for producing good educators. In my role now, I hire a lot of quality educators that are products of Dickinson State University.”

With both of her daughters on track to become teachers, Pamela said she was, at one time, apprehensive about her offspring going down a career path that often features long, thankless hours and, at times, notoriously low pay.

“It’s true that being a teacher is probably not the highest-paying type of position you could acquire in this area right now,” Pamela said. “I’m sure any one of us could make more money driving truck or working on the rigs, but I think it’s about following a dream, whatever that individual dream might be. As far as going into education, it’s a huge commitment of time and energy, but, personally, I can’t imagine doing anything else and I don’t think there is a more important profession because you wouldn’t have all the other workers that we need without people that are educating them.”

Fresh off Sarah and Kevin Poswilko’s wedding in October, Pamela said she will be once again be a proud mom when her oldest daughter walks up to receive her diploma.

“I’m very proud of both of my daughters,” Pamela said.

As far as the environment at DSU, both Wilz daughters spoke the community atmosphere on campus and the friendliness of the school’s faculty, staff and students.

“It’s a very supportive school,” Sarah said. “The professors are great and the relationships you develop are long-lasting. I became friends with RAs, RDs — even the lady who cleaned my apartment building. Everyone you meet at DSU is nice and great to be around.”

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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