By Marnie Piehl
Harley Swenson got his hands dirty making BSC beautiful.
Enrolling at BSC in 1954, the college transformed a “stick-in-the-mud” kid into a social butterfly. He got involved in plays, the chorus, and started dating. “It was a fun time,” he says.
Swenson graduated and went on to the University of North Dakota, where he earned a civil engineering degree. He established Swenson, Hagen & Co., a civil engineering and land surveying firm in 1967.
Before too long he was back at BSC tearing up poorly designed parking lots. He dug in from there.
“I was in cahoots with Kermit,” he says of former BSC president, the late Kermit Lidstrom. Working with Lidstrom, and later President Donna Thigpen, Swenson designed campus improvement projects that ranged from parking lots to sidewalks and gutters to the placement of hundreds of trees, shrubs and landscaping. “I have enjoyed my association with the presidents of the college – all have been very progressive in their thinking and willing to listen to a crazy engineer that wanted to build things,“ Swenson says.
His last big project before retirement was the MDU Resources Community Bowl in the late 1990s. “My firm was the design engineer and construction manager. I stayed in shape during that project – climbing those hills all day long every day. I think I lost 10 pounds.”
He was refueled through the great lunches he ate in the Mystic Marketplace. “They have great cooks at BSC.”
As a student, faculty like Charles Hook, chair of the math and engineering department, and physics professor Dr. William Chaffee nurtured Harley’s analytical and engineering skills, helping him find his life’s work.
“All my interest in tech, science and engineering started at BSC. It gave me the inspiration and education that got me going.”
Harley met his wife, Margaret, at UND. A homemaker and community volunteer, Margaret managed rental properties, and gets the credit for ensuring Harley could volunteer and serve on many business-related causes in the community including 24 years on the State Water Commission.
The couple’s three children all attended or graduated from BSC. “My kids didn’t have much of a choice – they were all going to college and we obviously promoted BSC,” Swenson says.
Kim (Swenson) O’Leary attended for one year and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at UND and a master’s degree at Regis University in Denver. Son Mark (’85) went on to earn a construction engineering degree from North Dakota State University, became a Regional Professional Engineer and served as president of the BSC Alumni Association. Kari (Swenson) Hausauer (‘82) played basketball for BSC, and racked up a record 43 points in a game against the University of Mary that held for many years. Son-in-law Mark Hausauer (‘79) played basketball at BSC and was the conference rebounding champ in 1978. Grandson Troy Hausauer (’15) also played basketball for the Mystics.
Longtime supporters of both the BSC National Alumni Association (they are members of the 1939 Society) and the BSC Foundation, in 2013 Harley and Margaret established a Swenson family scholarship for pre-engineering students at BSC. Harley was named BSC Outstanding Alumnus in 1995, and received the Presidential Merit Award from the BSC National Alumni Association in 1984.