Katherine Kilbourne Burgum
Katherine Kilbourne Burgum, 90, Fargo, ND, died peacefully at MeritCare Palliative Care on Tuesday, April 12, 2005, surrounded by members of her family.
Katherine Kilbourne was born on February 26, 1915 in Minneapolis, Kansas. The daughter of Dr. Burton Kane Kilbourne and Daisy Conwell Kilbourne, Katherine was the youngest child, with four older brothers.
The family moved to Topeka, Kansas in 1919, and then on to Fargo in 1923, where her father became the medical officer for one of five public health demonstration sites in the United States. Settling in at 1122 4th Street North, the Kilbourne family began a lifelong commitment to the betterment of the community, the region and the state.
Affectionately referred to as he Fourth Street Gang Katherine made childhood friends who shared her sense of fun, civic pride and overall commitment to excellence. These friendships lasted a lifetime, and included other well known Fargo citizens such as C. Warner Littten and his wife Betty Baillie Litten.
Katherine attended Horace Mann School and had her first taste of ife in the public eye at age 12, when she won an essay writing contest. First prize was a trip to Washington, DC to represent North Dakota at the National Red Cross convention. Katherine made the trip cross country alone on the train, and often referred to the experience as a defining moment in her youth. It clearly set the stage for her fearless approach to life and her confident, but humble belief in her own abilities.
After graduating from Fargo Central High School in 1933, she enrolled at North Dakota Agricultural College (NDAC), now North Dakota State University, graduating in 1937 with majors in Home Economics, Education, Foods and Nutrition, and a minor in Journalism.
That same year, Katherine began her professional career teaching Home Economics at Sayville Junior High School in Sayville, Long Island, New York. True to form, she simultaneously taught at Sayville, and took classes at Columbia University, receiving a Masters Degree in Home Economics, Education and Related Art from that institution in 1939. With masters degree in hand, she was able to fulfill her goal of teaching at the college level, and from 1939 through 1947, she was an instructor and assistant professor in the Department of Home Economics at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.
While at Wayne State, she led pioneering research in packing methods for fresh fruits, vegetables and sea food that would enable those foods to be shipped fresh, by air, from their source to markets all over the country. While these methods are taken for granted today, the study proved revolutionary and the publication arkets for Airborne Seafood co-authored by Katherine, was awarded the Aviation Writers Prize in1949 for outstanding literary contribution to aviation.
Katherine married Joseph Burgum from Arthur, North Dakota, on April 8, 1944. Joe and Katherine had been ollege sweethearts at NDAC, where they worked together on the college year book. Katherine was editor, and Joe had said he applied to be staff photographer so Katherine would now that he was around and always available when she needed him. After the attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted Joe studies at the University of Minnesota Law School, he enlisted in the Navy and served as an officer on the Destroyer USS Wren during WWII.
After the war, the couple moved back to Arthur, where Joe joined the family grain business. It was in Arthur that Joe and Katherine started their family. Son Bradley was born in 1952, daughter Barbara in 1953, and another son, Douglas in 1956. In addition to the commitment to her young family, Katherine was active in the United Methodist Church at Arthur and led the church new building committee. She also served on the Arthur School Board, was the first president of the St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary in Fargo, and later served two terms as state president of the North Dakota Hospital Auxiliary Association. Katherine was a founder of the Cass County Historical Society, and served on its first board of directors. In 1957, she was chosen as one of two representatives from North Dakota to the Congress for Better Living in Washington, DC.
She was also active in the March of Dimes and the North Dakota Cancer Society, as well as the Campfire Girls, the PTA, the Red Cross, and both the Red River Valley and Cass County Fair Associations. Katherine was also very involved in Republican Party politics at all levels, serving as National Committeewoman from North Dakota from 1968-72. In 1969, she was appointed to the National Motor Vehicle Safety Advisory Council.
Following her husband Joe untimely death at age 53 in 1971, Katherine began to explore the job market. Already on the search committee for a new Dean for NDSU College of Home Economics, she had seen several candidates come and go when she was approached to take the job herself.
After reluctantly accepting the position of cting Dean in 1972, Katherine charged ahead, making a sorely needed addition to the College physical plant her number one priority. She was soon made full time Dean, and leveraging her astute political expertise and extensive personal contacts, she successfully lobbied the North Dakota Legislature for funding, and against all odds, ground was broken for the new addition in 1974. In 1998, the facility was renovated and renamed the Katharine Kilbourne Burgum Family Life Center. Also during her tenure as Dean, the College of Home Economics experienced a dramatic rise in the number of faculty holding doctorates, and received large increases in the amount of research dollars and projects.
During her tenure at NDSU, she remained active in many other areas of service. She continued on the Advisory Council on Highway Safety, pioneering such recommendations as seatbelts, airbags, and the third rear brake light on automobiles. She was named by President Gerald Ford as a member of the President Advisory Council for Women Educational Programs. Governor Link appointed her to his ad hoc committee on administrative practices in education, and she was one of twelve North Dakota delegates at the National Women Conference in Houston, Texas.
Katherine retirement as Dean in 1980 signaled a whole new round of activity. That same year, Governor Allen Olson named her to the State Social Service Board. In 1984, Governor Sinner appointed Katherine to the Study Commission on Fitness and Productivity and to the New Wealth Creation Task Force in 1986 and 1987. Governor Sinner also appointed her to the Preliminary Task Force for the Vision 2000 Committee. In 1989, Katherine was elected the Republican Presidential Elector and voted the North Dakota ballot in the National Electoral College for President George H.W. Bush.
Katherine served on Boards of Directors for the Arthur Farmers Elevator, Western States Life Insurance Company, the NDSU Development Foundation, the St. Luke Foundation, Red River Zoological Society, and Great Plains Software. She was an early believer in the possibilities at Great Plains, dedicated to the vision of building a world class company that was committed to improving the lives and business success of its partners and customers.
She has received hundreds of honors and awards at the college, local, state and national level. These include an honorary doctorate from NDSU and the Greater North Dakota Award from the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce.
Katherine was a living testament to what is now known as he Greatest Generation Her selfless dedication to her family and friends, her tireless sense of duty to God and country, and her loyalty, wisdom, courage and unfailing good humor will serve as a role model for years to come. She was a singular, unique bundle of joy and energy and her long, fruitful life will remain a cherished memory and inspiration for all who knew her.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her beloved husband Joe Burgum, and her dear brothers Richard, Ken, Burt, and Howard Kilbourne.
Katherine believed her greatest achievement was her children and grandchildren. She is survived by her son Bradley and his wife Julie, daughter Barbara, and son Douglas, as well has her grandchildren James, Benjamin, Joseph, Jessamine, and Thomas.
Funeral services will be at First Presbyterian Church of Fargo, at 1:30 pm, Saturday, April 16. Visitation will be at the church, starting at noon. Arrangements by Fredrikson Funeral Chapel, Kindred, ND. Online guestbook available at www.boulgerfuneralhome.com
Memorials may be directed to the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Fund at the Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation, which supports a variety of arts, education, conservation, health and human services programs.