A ceremonial ground breaking for a new wellness center at the University of Minnesota Crookston took place on Monday, September 22, 2014. The day began with an announcement of a $1 million gift for the wellness center project by Les and June Nielsen and names the lobby of the building in memory of their son, Mitch Lien Nielsen. 

Guests for the ceremony included University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, members of the U of M Board of Regents Clyde Allen and Thomas Devine, and several members of the Minnesota Legislature. Construction of the facility will begin next year with anticipated completion in 2016. 

"This project is a testament to the 'can do' collaborative partnerships that are a hallmark of this remarkable region, community, and campus," said Fred Wood, chancellor of the U of M Crookston. "The Wellness Center will assist with student success by helping us recruit, retain, and graduate our students. It will strengthen our academic mission and teach our students to be well-rounded individuals."

The wellness facility will be transformational for the campus as well as an asset for the community. When completed, the new wellness center will be approximately 36,000 square feet featuring a two-court recreational gymnasium space, workout and fitness spaces, locker rooms, public spaces, a classroom, and a multipurpose room. 

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed the 2014 Legislative Bonding Bill last May. The bill included state funding for several projects for the University of Minnesota system, one of which was a $10 million allocation for a Wellness Center at the Crookston campus.  An additional $5 million will be raised for the project through philanthropic efforts.

Background
The UMC Sports Center was originally built in 1930 when the campus was a residential high school. It was significantly updated only once--in 1980 when Lysaker Gymnasium was added along with some additional office space and training rooms. The central core of the facility, Knutson Gymnasium, is more than 80 years old and houses the current fitness and exercise area. 

The Sports Center is shared by varsity athletics, intramural sports, and the student body. Because of the need for student-athletes to use the facility for conditioning, practice and training, it is overcrowded and virtually inaccessible to most other students. In addition to overcrowding and age, the inadequate size of the UMC Sports Center has meant limited space for equipment--there are only 15 cardio machines and a small weight room for a campus population of roughly 1000.

Winters, especially those like this past year's severely cold and long winter, make it difficult if not impossible for students to exercise outdoors for much of the academic year, and the need is great for students to have access to healthy recreation year-round. 

Today the University of Minnesota, Crookston delivers 29 bachelor's degree programs, 20 minors, and 36 concentrations on campus--as well as 13 degrees online--in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; business; liberal arts and education; and math, science and technology.  With an enrollment of 1,800 undergraduates from more than 20 countries and 40 states, the Crookston campus offers a supportive, close-knit atmosphere that leads to a prestigious University of Minnesota degree.  "Small Campus. Big Degree."  To learn more, visit www.umcrookston.edu.

Contact: Elizabeth Tollefson, assistant director, communications, 218-281-8432 (ltollefs@umn.edu)

The University of Minnesota Crookston announced a $1 million gift to name the entrance/lobby of the new campus wellness facility, which will begin construction next year. The gift, from Les and June Nielsen, will name the area in memory of their son, Mitch Lien Nielsen. The announcement was made on Monday, September 22, 2014, at a press conference followed by a ceremonial groundbreaking for the wellness center.

Les Nielsen graduated in 1958 from the Northwest School of Agriculture, a residential high school located on what is now the University of Minnesota Crookston. He went on to earn a degree in business from the University of Minnesota. In 1968, the Nielsens along with long time friend, Gene Ellingson, started Herc-U-Lift Incorporated, a forklift truck and material handling equipment distributorship. Les served as the company's president for thirty-six years, and June worked alongside her husband in the business. Les remains as the company's chief executive officer.

"The Nielsen family has always placed a high priority on education," says Fred Wood, chancellor of the U of M Crookston. "They are incredibly grateful for what the University of Minnesota has done for them, and in turn, have established scholarships to benefit students at the University of Minnesota Crookston.

"This most recent gift demonstrates once again the Nielsen's appreciation for the University and their wish to support the Crookston campus," Wood continues. "They are making a difference in the lives of our students today and tomorrow."

Background
Les Nielsen was raised near Euclid, Minn., in a home where reading and studying were encouraged. The Northwest School of Agriculture, established as part of the land grant mission of the University of Minnesota, offered rural Minnesota students a residential, agricultural high school designed to meet the needs of the region.

Along with Les, three of his brothers attended the Northwest School of Agriculture, and three of them went on to the University of Minnesota: Andrew graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School, and Richard earned a degree in business and worked for the Internal Revenue Service spending years in management. Les also earned a degree in business from the U of M.

The Nielsens have established two scholarships in memory of their son, Mitch Lien Nielsen, who was taken from them in 1989 in a motorcycle accident. 

Today the University of Minnesota, Crookston delivers 29 bachelor's degree programs, 20 minors, and 36 concentrations on campus--as well as 13 degrees online--in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; business; liberal arts and education; and math, science and technology.  With an enrollment of 1,800 undergraduates from more than 20 countries and 40 states, the Crookston campus offers a supportive, close-knit atmosphere that leads to a prestigious University of Minnesota degree.  "Small Campus. Big Degree."  To learn more, visit www.umcrookston.edu.

Contact: Elizabeth Tollefson, assistant director, communications, 218-281-8432 (ltollefs@umn.edu)

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