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Amy Dalrymple, Published December 18 2009

Retiring MSUM professor to lead processional during graduation today

In his final weeks at Minnesota State University Moorhead, retiring professor Derald Rothmann has been tutoring a student in the hospital who had major back surgery.

That’s the kind of thing colleagues and students say has made Rothmann a successful teacher for the past 48 years.

Rothmann will lead students in the processional today during his final MSUM graduation ceremony.

The 69-year-old math professor is believed to be one of two longest-serving faculty members in MSUM history.

As he leaves, one student is particularly grateful for Rothmann’s commitment.

Jon Walsvik, a 26-year-old pre-engineering major from Moorhead, would have taken a medical incomplete in Rothmann’s algebra course, but Rothmann offered to come to his hospital room and work with him.

“I never would have thought of a college professor doing that,” Walsvik said.

But Rothmann said he frequently taught students outside of the classroom if they had special circumstances but were willing to work hard.

“It’s always fun teaching the students that want to learn,” Rothmann said.

Rothmann, a Washburn, N.D., native, began teaching at MSUM in 1962 at age 21, and stayed there for his entire career, with the exception of leaving to earn his Ph.D.

“Once I started teaching here, I liked it,” Rothmann said.

Rothmann is believed to be the faculty member with the most seniority in MSUM history. He officially retires in May, but his teaching duties end today.

However, Rothmann shares longevity with history professor Ken Smemo, who retired two years ago but still teaches part time at MSUM.

Smemo, who began teaching at MSUM in 1961, said Rothmann’s commitment to his students is why he’s been successful.

“Students have always liked him and he’s always cared a lot about his students,” Smemo said.

That interaction is what Rothmann said he’ll miss.

“It’s always nice if a bright light comes on in a student,” Rothmann said.

Walsvik completed his algebra course this week after Rothmann stopped by his hospital room to pick up his final exam.

Walsvik said he’s trying to come up with a way to show Rothmann how much he appreciates him.

“To me a thank you card’s not enough, but I don’t know what else I can do,” Walsvik said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590