Hundreds ring in the grand opening of Nistler Hall – AND Today – University of North Dakota | Ad On Picture








Nearly 600 people gather to celebrate the completion of UND’s newest academic building

A crowded crowd offered thunderous approval on Friday as the grand opening of the university’s brand new Nistler College of Business & Public Administration began.

UND’s Pride of the North Marching Band welcomed Werner and Colleen Nistler along with several family members to attend the grand opening of the building that bears their name. UND President Andy Armacost, Nistler College Dean Amy Henley, Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski and Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Grand Forks attended the event, each addressing the nearly 600 alumni, faculty, friends and family members gathered for the celebration. (Watch the video.)

Amy Henley, Dean of Nistler College of Business and Public Administration, speaks at the grand opening of Nistler Hall on Friday, September 30. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

A product of partnership

Holding back tears, Henley said Nistler Hall was a product of public and private partnerships. In the latter, the Nistlers took the lead with a lavish gift of $20 million to build the building. On September 26, 2019, the State Board of Higher Education voted to name the business college after the Nistlers, whose donation sparked a round of fundraising, including state funds matching their donation. More than 250 donors have contributed to the $70 million construction project, and there are 62 named rooms in the building, Henley said.

“We have had excellent partnerships with the state of North Dakota, the taxpayers, the city of Grand Forks, the amazing team at UND Alumni Association & Foundation, and the amazing faculty and staff at Nistler College, and all of the generous donors who have made this building possible.” said Henley.

Before being called into the auditorium for the grand opening ceremony and the accompanying ribbon cutting, the event visitors toured UND’s newest building in several large groups. Smiles lit people’s faces as they met old friends and made new acquaintances.

As the ceremony progressed, Henley praised their ethical, family-based value system in thanking the Nistlers for their generous support. Werner Nistler founded the Touchmark senior community in 1980 and served as chairman and CEO. There are more than a dozen Touchmark communities in the United States and Canada.

“We’re so incredibly proud that our students get to see a lifetime of generosity and an ethical framework that they both live by,” Henley said. “What an incredible inspiration to our business and public administration students that you can build a dream on an ethical basis and be so successful.”

Werner Nistler, speaks with Collier Cason, son of Amy Henley, Dean of the Nistler College of Business and Public Administration, and the grand opening of Nistler Hall. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Werner Nistler said the new building would give the university the opportunity to become a mainstay for the economy and the education that goes with it. Nistler Hall and all of its programs complement excellent programs at UND, including those at the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Nistler humbly thanked those involved in the completion of his namesake building, including members of the 2019 Legislature who approved $20 million in related funds for the project. In particular, he thanked Henley and DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, for bringing the request for funding to the elected heads of state. Rep. Sanford, he noted, helped finalize the legislation three days before the end of the legislative session.

“Obviously a lot of individuals have contributed to the money to make this possible and Colleen and I get a lot of credit, but hey, it’s not about us, it’s about you, it’s about the university,” he said. “We are very pleased that we can help to get this building off the ground.”

UND President Andy Armacost, standing between Colleen Nistler (left) and DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, applauds at the opening of Nistler Hall. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Like other speakers, Armacost thanked everyone involved in bringing the Nistler Hall project to life, including the architects and craftsmen who worked on the building during the harsh North Dakota winter. He said Nistler Hall will be the place “where the magic is going to happen year after year, decade after decade” by offering a world-class education.

Armacost thanked the Nistlers for their gift, but also for their time advising the UND administrators on the construction project and for welcoming them into their family after months of working together.

“We know this is a lifelong friendship, a lifelong relationship, and a lifelong connection that will only benefit University of North Dakota students,” Armacost said. “Thank you, Werner and Colleen.”

Armacost caused good-natured laughter as he told Henley he would introduce Sanford as the next speaker. Perhaps it was the lingering emotional expression on her face that made him want to help the dean of his business college.

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Grand Forks, addresses the crowd at the opening of Nistler Hall. Photo by Shawna Schill.

Sanford said the team from “D and D” or DeAnna (Carlson Zink) and the Dean (Amy Henley) wowed the House Appropriations Committee with their presentation for Nistler Hall. Securing government funding for such a project does not usually occur when there are only days left in the legislature. Sanford thanked everyone involved in the plans for the building, calling it an important building not only for AND but for the state as its cutting-edge design and technology will serve to attract students for years to come.

“Let me tell you, this is going to pick up and this is going to last, and this is going to be a real anchor for North Dakota in our future workforce development,” Sanford said.

The City of Grand Forks Workforce Development Office is located in Nistler Hall. After taking the stage, Mayor Bochenski highlighted the partnerships between Grand Forks and UND, which culminated in the presentation of the International Town & Gown Association’s Larry Abernathy Award in June 2021. The Grand Forks Growth Fund approved a $1.3 million grant for Nistler Saal.

Bochenski, a business school graduate, said that issues of human resource development are important and that he is grateful that the city can help “complete” the fundraising for the Nistler building.

Just before the speakers gathered on stage for the ceremonial ribbon cutting, Carlson Zink said of all the different feelings she felt at the opening of the Nistler Hall, the greatest thing was gratitude – gratitude to the Nistlers and to the other donors, to the state and everyone who worked on the building.

“Thank you for all being part of this collective ‘we’ that gets things done on behalf of our outstanding students,” she said.

And with that, the ribbon was cut and AND’s newest beacon of education was welcomed into the campus community.

Colleen and Werner Nistler cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Nistler Hall, while President Andy Armacost and other leaders from UND and Grand Forks assist. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today

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