By Kristin Johnson

Bobbi (Jarvis) Mason and Greta (Magnuson) Shawstad had an extraordinary friendship.

And it started when the elementary education majors met by chance at MSUM in the 1960s. They became friends when alphabetical seating charts forced them to sit by each other in class; their relationship deepened in the years after graduation even as they lived thousands of miles apart.

“We got engaged around the same time, planned our weddings around the same time, and had kids around the same time,” Bobbi says. “All of the milestones in life, we did together.”

Then Greta died suddenly in 2007.

Bobbi Mason

While her death marked the end of a friendship, it didn’t end the respect and love Bobbi had for Greta. To pay tribute to her late friend, Bobbi established a scholarship at MSUM in Greta’s name — the Greta (Magnuson) Shawstad Memorial Endowment Scholarship. The scholarship helps MSUM students who are studying to become teachers pay for their schooling.

“The goal was to honor Greta and to turn a negative into a positive. I can’t bring her back, but I can honor her,” Bobbi says.

After Bobbi and Greta graduated MSUM, the friends went their separate ways. Bobbi married a man who served in the Air Force, and the couple lived all over the world. Greta, on the other hand, got married and stayed in Moorhead.

Still, the two women stayed in touch by exchanging letters and phone calls. Even as their lives changed, their friendship remained strong.

Bobbi was living in California when Greta passed away. Instead of traveling to her dear friend’s funeral, Bobbi decided to pool her money to start the scholarship. She also invited teachers who had worked with Greta to donate to the fund.

She encourages others to consider starting scholarships.

“This scholarship was built from a dollar here and a dollar there,” she says. “You don’t have to be rich. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”

Recently, she and her husband became members of the MSUM Foundation’s Legacy Society by designating MSUM as a beneficiary in their wills.

For Bobbi, giving back is something that has been instilled in her from her father, who was a local businessman and very active member of the community. His motto was, “Do not expect to get anything out of your community unless you contribute to it.”

Bobbi hopes she is making her father — and her friend — proud.

If you are interested in starting a scholarship or leaving MSUM in your will, contact the MSUM Foundation at 218-477-2143 or email alumni@mnstate.edu.