By Con Marshall – Chadron State College
As a candidate for governor in Minnesota, Tim Walz wanted to unite the state as “One Minnesota.” Following a successful campaign, Walz became the first Chadron State College graduate ever elected governor of one of the 50 states. After serving in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 years, Walz was sworn in as Minnesota’s 41st Governor Jan. 7 in St. Paul.
|Tim Walz graduated from CSC in 1989|
During the 2018 election, Walz, a Democrat, received about 54 percent of the vote, or nearly 300,000 more votes than his challenger, Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner. The 1,392,958 votes that he received are the most ever for a gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota.
Walz, 54, was born in West Point, Nebraska, and spent most of his childhood in Valentine. He moved with his parents, Jim and Darlene Walz, to Butte, Nebraska, when he was a high school sophomore.
Walz graduated from Chadron State in 1989 and spent the following year teaching English and American history and culture in southern China. Afterward, he led tours which included numerous western Nebraska residents to China several summers.
Following the year in China, Walz taught global geography in Alliance for six years. During that time, he met his wife, Gwen, a native of Minnesota who also was teaching in the Alliance schools. In 1997, the couple moved to Mankato, her hometown, and he joined the faculty at West High School as a geography, history and sociology teacher.
In 2002, he was one of six Minnesota teachers to receive a $10,000 award recognizing their high performances and contributions to teaching. His award was for Ethics in Education.
Walz had joined the National Guard the summer after graduating from high school. Soon after he had been honored, his teaching career was interrupted when the First 125th Field Artillery Battalion from Minnesota that he had joined was sent to Afghanistan during the early stages of a conflict there.
He had served in the National Guard 24 years when he retired with the rank of Command Sergeant Major. When he took office in the U.S. House, he became the highest ranking retired enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress. Throughout his tenure in Washington, he championed enhanced veterans’ benefits.
In May 2014, Walz returned to Chadron State to give the commencement address and also was presented the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
During his talk, Walz said he was appreciative that his alma mater had provided middle class families like his the opportunity to earn a college education.
“The professors at this college wanted us to succeed,” Walz said. “The door was always open for us to learn and to grow. We got a great base for future success.
“A healthy and educated populace creates economic and national security. We have the right of self-governance which was paid for with blood. We need more critical thinkers like the students who graduated from CSC today.”
Two of Walz's siblings, Jeff, who lives in Florida, and Sandy Dietrich of Alliance, also graduated from Chadron State. Tim and Gwen have two children, Hope and Gus.
While Walz is the first CSC alumni to become governor of a state, two graduates have served as the governors of American Samoa, a U.S. territory, since 2003.
Togiola (Tala) Tulafono, held the office for 10 years, and was succeeded by Matalasi Moliga, the governor since 2013. They were among the two dozen or more American Samoans who attended Chadron State in the 1960s and ‘70s. Tulafono graduated from CSC in 1971 and Moliga in 1973.