Upper Columbia Academy Honors Retirees

During their recent alumni weekend, Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) honored four outstanding professionals who are retiring from Adventist education this year.

Phyllis (Starr) Bretsch has served the church for 30 years in various accounting positions for the Review and Herald Publishing Association, Pacific Union College and three Northwest conferences: Upper Columbia, Montana and Alaska. Along with providing solid financial leadership to the academy, she has gone as a sponsor on mission trips to the Philippines, Mexico and Belize. She has served UCA for 15 years.

As an ordained minister, Ron Turner’s rich career in Adventist education began while he was still a college student, replacing a teacher at Milo Academy halfway through the year. Since then, he has served 39 additional years in nine schools in a variety of capacities such as Bible teacher, guidance counselor, and alumni and development director. He also served as principal at two 12-grade schools and one senior boarding academy. Turner has been at UCA for nine years as director of marketing and recruiting and is known for his passion about getting kids into Christian education.

Harriet Lange began her teaching career by teaching for five years at Sheyenne River Academy (now Dakota Adventist Academy). After taking a break to raise her children, she served for 25 years at UCA, initially teaching home economics but eventually moving to business education. As a professional, she kept up with the phenomenal technological changes from mimeograph machines and manual typewriters to the latest computer systems. She has worked closely with her husband in running a dynamic music program and in sponsoring the four-year seniors.

Jerry Lange also started his career at Sheyenne River Academy. To honor his 37 years at UCA, former students and parents gathered for a Sabbath afternoon program of musical numbers and to share their memories.

The program included two special guests who had amazing connections to Lange. One was Max Torkelsen Sr., who was Lange’s academy principal and band teacher. He recalled Lange’s versatility with the instruments, even as a freshman. Torkelsen helped make a Christian education possible for Lange by suggesting to his parents that he would accept their hay for the academy cows in lieu of money for his tuition.

The other special guest was Jay Lantry, who was the educational superintendent/MV secretary of the North Dakota Conference when Lange was in third grade. “There wasn’t an Adventist school in the area,” Lantry remembered, “and his parents wanted so badly for little Jerry to have a Christian education. We worked together to get a school started, and after all these years it is an honor for me to be here for this occasion to witness the outcome of our efforts.”

Linnea Torkelsen, UCA’s alumni and development director, estimates that Lange has coordinated approximately 123 tours, conducted hundreds of concerts and given a staggering 62,000 instrument lessons!

August 01, 2006 / Upper Columbia Conference