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Legacy Family Pure Gold

FrankBarbaraGilchrist.jpgAll five Gilchrist siblings tell the same story about their time at Bismarck State College: The teachers were outstanding, and their years here were the most rewarding of their college careers.

Marie ("Pinky") Gilchrist, Kevin Gilchrist, Bridget (Gilchrist) Whittey, Chad Gilchrist and Martha Gilchrist all graduated from what was then Bismarck Junior College between 1973 and 1983. All went on to earn four-year degrees, and several earned advanced degrees. The siblings have all gone on to varied and successful careers. Kevin is a dentist, Bridget works in management, Martha and Chad both work in finance and Marie "Pinky" Gilchrist is a retired librarian and interior decorator.

Their father, Frank Gilchrist, spent a semester at BJC upon his return from the South Pacific in 1945 where he served as a U.S. Navy medic and triage officer. He then attended Creighton University in Nebraska on the GI Bill, and went on to work for the state of North Dakota. Barbara Gilchrist didn't attend college, but was a lifelong learner, avid reader, and always encouraged her children's studies.

"With your parents there was the assumption that we were going to college," Bridget (Gilchrist) Whittey says. "BJC was a great value and a great education.

It was something of a home away from home also. The family had good friends on campus who became influential teachers to the siblings. All five cite the lasting influence of instructors like Paul Swanson (also known to them as "Uncle Swan"), Don Bigwood, Warren Henke, the "infamous Mike McCormack," Woody Wilson, Frank Heid, Frank Koch and Jane Grey Smith, as some of the teachers who impacted their lives.

"One of the benefits of a community college is the size of the classrooms and really being able to have great interactions with your professors," Martha says. The Gilchrist siblings felt well prepared to go on after BSC.

"I think that the level of instruction was unparalleled," Kevin says.

Graduation didn't dull their commitment to BSC. Bridget is a proud supporter of the college. Her older son, like his Aunt Martha, played basketball for the Mystics. Kevin has served on the BSC Foundation board since 1979 when he first returned to Bismarck to open a dentistry practice.

Gilchristfamily.jpg"I had to borrow money to give that year," he laughs.

Chad established the Frank Gilchrist Scholarship in 2002 for a basketball player with good grades. Frank was a well-known all-around athlete throughout his life. He made the Creighton University basketball team as a walk-on who started four years (1946-50), and was team captain for two years.

Frank went on to play with amateur basketball and fast pitch softball teams and was inducted into the North Dakota Amateur Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982 and the Softball Hall of Fame in 1985.

The thank you letters the family receives from the scholarship recipients reinforce their belief in the continued importance of an affordable, quality community college. Chad feels private businesses and citizens have a responsibility to help students attend college as costs rise.

"We didn't have any money, we all lived at home, worked full-time and went to school. A community college gives kids a good start. College is expensive, and that makes community colleges even more important," Chad says.

"Our whole family is a huge believer in BSC. It's pure gold up there," Pinky says.