A Legacy of Hospitality and Generosity

When Viki Sand thinks back on family get-togethers at her grandparents’ house, she remembers small tables set up in various parts of the house. Spirited games of cards. Jokes. Lots of laughter.

And her grandparents – Olga and Palmer Berg – loving every minute of the crowded chaos.

“My grandparents were orphans,” she says. “I imagine them saying early on in their marriage that they’d never be alone again.”

To honor that love of family, the Berg grandchildren – all 18 of them – established an endowed scholarship at Minnesota State University Moorhead in memory of their grandparents. The cousins grew up together near Hawley and Lake Park and, in many ways, remained friends throughout adulthood. Coming together to support an endowed scholarship has brought them even closer.

Olga and Palmer Berg family
Olga and Palmer Berg were the ultimate hosts. Family and friends were always welcome in their home. Their hospitality and generosity live on through the MSUM endowed scholarship established in their memory.

“This has rekindled our relationships and has given us something to work on together,” Sand says.

The Bergs never attended college, but MSUM has had a deep influence on their family. One daughter, Bernice, earned her teaching degree from Minnesota State Teacher’s College. Eleven of their grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren attended or are currently attending MSUM. One grandson, Gene Schulstad, served on the MSUM Foundation board.

“(My grandparents) attended many, many graduations,” Sand says. “They saw what a difference public higher education made for our family.”

The Olga and Palmer Berg family scholarship is given each year to students who are the first member of their immediate family to receive a college degree. The scholarship ensures that first-generation students have an opportunity to focus on their studies and have less debt when they leave school.

“Our foundation partners with those who want to support MSUM and our students,” says Jenni Walthall, of the MSUM Foundation. “This endowed scholarship has been made possible by an amazing and generous family and will have tremendous impact on many first-generation students. We look forward to continuing to celebrate this remarkable scholarship.”

Felicia Yang ’22 of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, is one of the recipients of the 2020 scholarship. She’s a junior studying animation.

For her, the scholarship was more than financial aid – it was needed encouragement to continue her education. Her parents are from Laos and came to the United States as refugees of the Vietnam War. They graduated from high school but never went to college. Neither did her two older siblings.

When the pandemic struck this spring, her mother lost work hours because of illness and her father lost his job.

“We were worried about the financial situation, so I was thinking about taking the semester off,” Yang says.

Now she can continue with her schooling at MSUM where she also participates in the Asian Multicultural Organization and the Dragon K-pop dance team. She can also focus on getting an internship in the field of movie animation.

“This motivates me to push towards graduation,” she says. “That’s important for both me and my parents.”

Sand says her grandparents always invited guests to join the family for dinner or holiday celebrations. Honoring students with a scholarship in their name feels like an extension of that hospitality.

“We love the stories of our scholarship students,” Sand says. “We delight in hearing what higher education means for them.”

The endowed scholarship also gives the Berg descendants another excuse to gather. They come together each year when recipients are named; this year it was by Zoom. Since the grandchildren started the fund, other family members have contributed. And they all hope their generosity inspires future generations to honor the family legacy.

“This doesn’t just happen with one or two people. It’s successful because it taps into roots that are very deep. It resonates as right and good for our family,” Sand says.

On MSUM Giving Day Thursday, Oct. 29, you can also make an impact on our students. Visit our website (mnstate.edu/givingday) and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter to discover how you can make a gift and participate in the day’s activities.