Center Administrators

The University of Minnesota North Central Research and Outreach Center has had 14 administrators since its beginning in 1896.

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Daniel M. Braaten | 2022-present

Daniel M. Braaten

Dan Braaten took over as the Director of Operations at North Central Research and Outreach Center in 2022.  

Braaten began his career at NCROC in 1996 when he when he was hired by Dr. Erv Oekle and Henry Schumer as a student worker in the Wild Rice Breeding Program, to work on an insurance pilot project looking at the effect of hail damage in cultivated wild rice. After graduating in the spring of 2000 with a BA in biology from the University of MN, Morris, he was hired on by Dr. Raymond Porter as the wild rice breeding Program’s full-time Junior Scientist.

While continuing his work in the wild rice breeding program at NCROC, Braaten earned a Master’s of Science degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University in August of 2014. During that time his research focused on the feasibility of enhanced nitrogen efficiency using ESN® as a nitrogen source in cultivated wild rice. 

Vincent A. Fritz | 2013-2022

Vince Fritz

Vincent A. Fritz, Ph.D, was named Director at NCROC in April 2013 and assumed his new duties later in June. Fritz came to the University of Minnesota from Michigan in July 1985 as an Assistant Professor and Extension Vegetable Specialist and was stationed at the Southern Research and Outreach Center located in Waseca where he also served as interim Head from 2000-2001. He is currently a steering committee member of the Minnesota Chemoprevention Consortium, advisory committee member of the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center (MITPPC), and previously served on the advisory committee of the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute. He received his degrees from Michigan State University – BS Entomology (1978), MS Horticulture (1982), and Ph.D. Horticulture (1985).

While Fritz has been focused on strengthening operational capacity through improved production efficiencies and infrastructural investments, he has been a key leader in broadening NCROC’s community/stakeholder outreach program and impact by redefining its signature annual outreach event, Visitors Day. He has also engaged internal partners (MITPPC and Bell Museum of Natural History) to facilitate their impact in northern Minnesota through joint programming.

Daniel L. Erkkila | 2004 - 2013

Dan Erkkila

Daniel L. Erkkila, Ph.D, was named Interim Head in May 2004 and in 2007 accepted the position of Head of NCROC. Shortly after, he also became a regional director for University of Minnesota Extension, responsible for the Extension Regional Office co-located with NCROC in Grand Rapids. Erkkila came to the University of Minnesota and NCROC in August 1991, serving with a split appointment as a tourism specialist with Extension’s Tourism Center and researcher at NCROC. He served as the Tourism Center’s associate director from 1995-2000 when he was appointed interim director, serving until 2003 when the center was transferred from Extension to the former College of Natural Resources (now College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences - CFANS). Prior to coming to NCROC, he worked on the USDA Forest Service Policy Analysis staff in Washington D.C. and as an operations research analyst on the Chippewa National Forest in Cass Lake, Minnesota. He received his degrees from the University of Minnesota in 1977 (B.S.), 1982 (M.S.) and 1991 (Ph.D.).

Erkkila has been actively engaged with other research & outreach center (ROC) heads to chart a course for the future of the ROC system in the years ahead. NCROC has always had one of the most diverse disciplinary programs among the ROC’s. While leading in many agricultural research areas, it has always had strong forestry/natural resource research programs as well. Natural resource research leadership is expected to gain momentum at NCROC, since the merger of the former College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and the College of Natural Resources that formed CFANS in 2006.

David L. Rabas | 1991-2004

David L. Rabas

David L. Rabas, Ph.D, was named superintendent in April 1991. In 1992 the title of the position was changed from "Superintendent" to "Head" of the North Central Experiment Station. Dr. Rabas had been agronomist at the station since 1971 and was well known for his research and extension work with field crops, especially forages. A native of northeastern Wisconsin, he has a B.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin River Falls and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Agronomy from the University of Minnesota.

Rabas became superintendent at a time when the University and station were experiencing cuts in their budgets by the state legislature. A greater reliance on research grants became necessary in order to continue quality research programs. Some changes in the direction of research at the station occurred during this period with the phasing out of the dairy and swine herds, the expansion of the beef herd, and concentration of efforts on beef and forage research.

Research and outreach on agricultural and forest management practices that provide greater sustainability became a major part of the Station's mission as it developed into a center for excellence in research and education, responsive to issues related to rural community development.

Rabas resigned as Head in 2004 and returned to his agronomy appointment until his retirement a year later in 2005. He remains a resident of Grand Rapids and continues to provide guidance to faculty, seeking to both maintain stakeholder relationships and to develop new relationships that will enhance NCROC.

Robert F. Nyvall | 1985-1991

Robert F. Nyvall

Robert F. Nyvall, Ph.D is a native of Thief River Falls, Minnesota. He received is B.S. degree in Forestry Management at the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology also at the University of Minnesota. Nyvall held positions at Washington State University and at Iowa State University before accepting the Superintendent's position at North Central in 1985.

Soon after Nyvall came to North Central, 200 acres of land located south of Grand Rapids on the Harristown Road were purchased by the Experiment Station. Land clearing and other improvements at this site were started to develop a research farm for beef and forage research. Federal funding was obtained for a position in wildrice breeding and genetics to be located at the North Central Station, a position filled by Dr. Raymond Porter. Basic research in forestry was emphasized with the hiring of Howard Hoganson for research in forest economics and long-term planning. The Aspen and Larch Project, previously a part of the Institute of Paper Science and Technology, was brought to the North Central Campus from Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

Nyvall resigned as Superintendent in 1991 and remained at the Station to do research in plant pathology with emphasis on diseases of cultivated wildrice and the development of mycoherbicides for weed control until his retirement in 2002. He remains a resident of Grand Rapids and has recently returned to NCROC to assist in the Wildrice department with current research projects.

Joseph W. Rust | 1978-1985

Joseph W. Rust

Joseph W. Rust, Ph.D, is a native of Kentucky and received B.S. and M.S. degrees in dairy husbandry at the University of Kentucky. After receiving a Ph.D. in animal nutrition at Iowa State University, he spent a year and a half in the Dairy Husbandry Department on the St. Paul Campus. He came to North Central as the Animal Scientist just in time to teach a few courses for the last quarter of the school's existence in 1965. Rust was appointed Acting Superintendent after the death of Superintendent Matalamaki and was appointed to the permanent position a few months later.

During this time there was an expansion of research and extension in agronomy, horticulture, and animal science and an increase in research with wild rice both at the Station and at off-the-station sites. An advisory committee composed of citizens of several counties of northeast Minnesota was formed to give input to the direction of the Station.

Rust resigned as Superintendent in 1985 and returned to the Animal Science position until he retired in 1990. He still resides in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, stays very active in the community, and keeps up to date on current events here at NCROC.

William Matalamaki | 1956-1978

William Matalamaki

William Matalamaki, Ph.D, was a native of Floodwood, Minnesota. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees at the University of Minnesota and taught vocational agriculture at Bigfork and Esko before coming to North Central as the school principal in 1949. He was appointed Superintendent in 1956. He earned a Ph.D. in Agricultural Education at the University of Wisconsin in 1958 where part of his research included a study and recommendations regarding the future of secondary schools of agriculture such as the one at North Central. His analysis led to the conclusion that with improved transportation in rural areas and the increasing number of high schools offering agriculture in their curriculum, the need for schools of agriculture was becoming obsolete. He recommended that the schools of agriculture operated by the University of Minnesota be phased out within the next several years. This process began at North Central in the early 1960's and the school was closed in 1965.

As the agricultural school was phased out, continuing education and research was increased. New faculty with backgrounds in research were hired and greater cooperation with faculty on the St. Paul Campus and integration with research projects of various departments in the College of Agriculture began to evolve. The USDA Forestry Research Laboratory and the Itasca Community College moved to the North Central Campus in 1959 and 1967. A new office building was constructed for the Experiment Station staff in 1969 to replace the space vacated to the Community College.

Matalamaki was very active in community and church organizations and served on a number of College and University committees. In 1965 he served as a consultant with the Ford Foundation to study secondary education in Chile and prepared a series of recommendations for its improvement. He died unexpectedly in August 1978.

Clarence L. Cole | 1950-1956

Clarence L. Cole

Clarence L. (Stub) Cole returned to North Central to become the seventh superintendent in December of 1950. He had served here as animal husbandman from 1929 - 1938 when he went to Michigan State University and later served as a farm manager in Michigan.

Dr. Cole was a dairyman and farm manager. This background was firmly expressed in the work that he promoted at the station. He made an analysis of the dairy research program and took steps to improve the herd to maximize production potential so that research results would be more meaningful. He remodeled several buildings and updated the machinery and equipment at the Station. During Dr. Cole's tenure, a forester was added to the faculty. This was a significant addition to the station's research program, since forestry had been neglected for over 50 years after Mr. Chapman left.

Dr. Cole left North Central in 1956 to become head of the Dairy Department on the St. Paul Campus. He later became head of the Department of Animal Science when the Dairy, Poultry and Animal Husbandry Departments were combined. He retired in 1970 and returned to Michigan where he died in 1985.

Donald L. Dailey | 1930-1940

Donald L. Dailey

Donald L. Dailey came to the station as Animal Husbandman in 1938 and was named superintendent in 1940 when Mr. Donovan became ill. Mr. Dailey was born in Eagen, South Dakota, where his father owned a large livestock farm. He went to high school in Pipestone, Minnesota, and was an honor graduate of the University of Minnesota majoring in animal husbandry and plant science. He was a research assistant at St. Paul before moving to Grand Rapids.

Dailey's challenge was to continue the work that had been started with inbred swine and sheep and to maintain the school. The task was made difficult because of the uncertainty of keeping competent help during World War II. There were numerous changes in both faculty and staff during that period. Nevertheless, the School of Agriculture reached its peak enrollment of 109 students in 1946. The third school building was funded and built. An agriculture engineer was added to the faculty and the position of principal was added to give leadership to the school program.

Dailey resigned in 1950 to return to farming and agricultural consulting. After working for several years in Indiana and Minnesota, he retired and lived in southern Minnesota and Arizona.

Raymond L. Donovan | 1930-1940

Raymond L. Donovan

Raymond L. Donovan was a native of Minnesota. He became superintendent when the School of Agriculture was only four years old. It became Donovan's duty to build up the school. He was an excellent public relations person who was successful in cementing school-community relationships.

During his tenure several significant livestock research projects were initiated, including early work in artificial insemination of cattle and the development of inbred lines of swine and sheep. A program for the beautification of the campus was initiated with the help of horticulturist, Ted Weir. A heart attack in 1940 forced him to retire. He died in 1943.

Otto I. Bergh | 1914-1930

Otto I. Bergh

Otto I. Bergh was trained in elementary education at Moorehead State Teachers College and later studied soils and agronomy at the University of Wisconsin. During his 16 years as superintendent he was instrumental in bringing considerable growth to the station and school. He initiated a comprehensive system of soil fertilization plots and encouraged farmers to use barnyard manure and supplement it with lime and commercial fertilizer. It was during Bergh's administration that the North Central School of Agriculture for high school boys was established.

Bergh left the station in July 1930 for a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin and lived in Florida after retirement until his death about 1965.

A.J. McGuire | 1904-1914

A.J. McGuire

A. J. McGuire was a dairyman by training and interest. He immediately set about to encourage the development of grade A dairying in northern Minnesota. He firmly believed that successful farm operations in this area should be tied to production of good quality forage marketed through the dairy cow. The experimental and demonstration work that he set up served to extend his philosophy. He encouraged improvement of herds through the use of purebred sires and careful selection and culling. He encouraged and assisted in establishing cooperative creameries in many communities.& In 1914 he moved to the Central Experiment Station at St. Paul and later became instrumental in establishing Land O' Lakes Creameries, which remains one of the major processors of dairy products in the nation. Mr. McGuire is remembered as the "Father of Dairying" in northern Minnesota.

Herman H. Chapman | 1898-1904

Herman H. Chapman

Herman H. Chapman, a native of Massachusetts and a graduate of the University of Minnesota, became superintendent of the station in 1898. Previous to his appointment he had spent parts of eight years traveling large areas of northern Minnesota. His approach to the operation of the new sub-station was that of prudence and economy. He was an early promoter of land-use study and classification. He felt that land should be placed at its highest potential use. Good, potentially tillable land should be opened for farming, he thought, while the major portion of land in Northeast Minnesota should be returned to its natural use of producing trees.

Chapman is remembered for his forestry work, but the early development of the station moved forward in other directions as well. The plans that were started for agronomic, horticultural, and livestock work were carried out and the early building program was underway. The North Central Experiment Station has a living memorial to this farsighted man. In 1900 he established a forestry plantation, now known as the Chapman Forestry Plantation, on an area of rough, rocky land on the west side of the station.

After a few years, Chapman met with some controversy. He became convinced that no matter which varieties would be grown, agriculture crops would in the end be an unprofitable enterprise on some soils in northeast Minnesota. There was a feeling in the North that he failed to push agricultural experiments with all possible vigor and was spending too much time carefully observing trees for silvicultural data. Matters came to a head when at a meeting of the American Forestry Association in Minneapolis he presented a paper on the ultimate use of cut-over lands for the best economic purpose, suggesting that these lands be allowed to revert to forest and that experimentation should be directed toward the problem of maintaining and reforesting these timber lands. Apparently this did not sit well with farmers and newspapers editors in the North or with land companies wishing to sell agricultural land.

Chapman resigned his position as superintendent in 1904 and left Grand Rapids for Yale University where he became a professor of forestry and later headed the Forestry Department at Yale. He made several visits to North Central with his last in the early 1960's shortly before his death.

Warren W. Pendergast | 1896-1898

Warren W. Pendergast

Warren W. Pendergast, a native of Hutchinson, Minnesota, and an honor graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Agriculture, was the first superintendent of what was then known as the Northeast Subexperiment Farm. Pendergast, who was only 21 years old, and was the son of W.W. Pendergast, the first principal of the School of Agriculture in St. Paul. He began the development of the farm, planning for drainage of swamps, the development of forage, grain, cranberry and livestock projects, the protection of young timber and the reforestation of burned-over areas. During 1896 the farm was surveyed and fenced; and roads were staked and constructed. Test plots were prepared and about 30 more acres were cleared for production of crops. A year later Pendergast was injured by a saddle horse and died a short time later from the effects of the accident. His assistant, Robert W. Clark, carried on the work planned by Pendergast until H.H. Chapman was named superintendent in 1898.