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Gunderson inducted in FFA Hall of Fame

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 05/13/2013 2:35 PM

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ADA, Minn. — Lowell Gunderson took many students to the Minnesota FFA convention during his 33-year career as an ag instructor and FFA advisor. This year, he returned to the convention as an honoree.

Gunderson was among 11 people inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame.

Gunderson's father was a hard-working farmer. His mother's interests were found in the family garden.

Gunderson's career choice was influenced by high school instructor.

"That teacher did an excellent job of teaching and promoting FFA," Gunderson said. "He had many ideas that I picked up and used in the classroom."

He was a member of the Farmhouse Fraternity and student taught in Langdon, N.D.

"There were two of us at that school and we were there for only three weeks," he said. "I don't think we got our feet very wet there before we were done with our student teaching experience."

He taught two years in Plummer, a small town near Thief River Falls. He spent four years in Herman before teaching in Ada for 27 years.

Gunderson met his wife through the school. Borghild was the home economics teacher and advisor for the Future Homemakers of America. When Borgie's FHA members wanted to compete against a southern Minnesota chapter in parliamentary procedure, she called on Gunderson's FFA'ers for help.

The Ada district encouraged teachers to meet with each student over summer. It was a natural part of his FFA program as he worked with the chapter and.

During summer, he arranged camping and fishing trips to the Boundary Waters. During the school year, he'd take students for quick trips to a neighboring town to grab a bite to eat. He had a special connection with his students, seeking excellence in their work while being patient.

His students organized a pancake supper for the community on each election day and planted winter wheat on fields east of town. Money raised from the crop was given to Camp Courage, he said.

The community was evacuated during the 1997 flood and a new school was built. The crop plots relocated to the west end of town. The Gundersons home is now located on land that was once grew the chapter's winter wheat, he said.

He tries to recall the names of each of his former students who received an American Farmer degree, but he doesn't want to start listing them in case he'd forget someone.

After Gunderson retired in 1987 he returned as a substitute teacher and was a bus driver for a few years. Ag instructors often had bus driving licenses so they can drive students to contests, he said.

He uses the horticulture skills he learned from his mother on a small acreage the couple inherited near Ada. They've grown and sold Christmas trees on the property and now raise vegetables and berries.

The couple enjoys following the families and careers of their two children and three grandchildren and visiting with their many former students who live and work in the area.

"Now when we see them, they have gray hair, too, and are enjoying their own grandchildren," Borgie said.