Academic Wall of Honor Biographies



Joel Gretsch
A 1982 graduate of Albany Area High School, Joel Gretsch enrolled at St. Cloud State University. Mr. Gretsch entered a modeling contest in Minneapolis and won. He spent time modeling for Dayton’s, Herberger’s, Target and other notable businesses, which helped him land numerous television commercials. In 1986 Joel moved to California to attend acting classes and continue modeling. He has had roles in Married with Children, Saved by the Bell, Melrose Place, Friends, JAG, Pacific Blue, Bold and the Beautiful and CSI: New York. Mr. Gretsch’s big break came when he landed the role of Bobby Jones in the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance in 1999.

Naomi (Schwegler) Lane, DDS
A 2000 graduate of Albany Area High School, Naomi (Schwegler) Lane attended St. Olaf College, graduating magna cum laude in 2004 with B.S. degree in Hispanic Studies. In 2009 she earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, graduating with high honors. Dr. Lane is Board Certified by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and received the James R. Roche Award of Excellence for achieving the highest score on the qualifying exam during the Board Certification process. Dr. Lane currently practices as a pediatric dentist for Southmoor Pediatric Dentistry in Denver, Colorado. She also devotes three to four days per month as a pediatric dentist for Central Minnesota Pediatric
Dentists in St. Cloud, MN.

Roman P. Wengler
A 1945 graduate of Albany Area High School, Roman Wengler enrolled at St. John’s University before transferring to the University of Minnesota where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1952. In 1952 he earned a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering and in 1954 a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota. Mr. Wengler had a thirty-eight year career for Harza Engineering Company and specialized in the design of concrete dams. His structural engineering expertise was also applied to bridges, electrical transmission lines and the rehabilitation of navigational blocks on the Mississippi River and Panama Canal.


Loretta (McBride) Fridland graduated from the Janesville, MN high school in 1916 and later graduated from the College of Saint Teresa in Winona, MN. She taught mathematics in Hurley, WI and Melrose, MN before the birth of her only child, Mary. She came out of retirement in 1943 when many of the male teachers were off fighting WWII. Loretta was appointed principal and math teacher at the Albany High School. In 1948 she continued as a math teacher until her retirement in 1963. Her philosophy in teaching math was to develop thinking first, then work for accuracy. Noting Loretta Fridland’s impact on his life, one former student shared this comment: “Mrs. Fridland was the reason I pursued a Math degree in college. She created an environment that would cause you to grow and would challenge your ability. She was concerned about her students and available for assistance even after I graduated from high school. She was truly a dedicated teacher!”

 Rollie Gilk began his service to the Albany Area School District in 1960 when he was hired as a custodian to work in the Albany High School. In 1962, Rollie was asked to also serve as a bus driver, a job he still enjoys today. He retired as a custodian in 1997. Commenting on his role as a custodian, Rollie notes “I felt it was very important to keep the school clean and neat for the education of our students, for our teachers and administrators. A clean workplace makes for a better, more positive environment all the way around.” As a school bus driver, Rollie is known for greeting all of his students by name as they board his bus and for giving them a warm, positive comment as they depart. Students appreciate his fairness, his firmness, but most of all his kindness. For Rollie, the Golden Rule always applies: Treat others as you would like to be treated. To this school district employee, “Purple Pride” is more than a catchy slogan. It’s what Rollie Gilk feels every day when he heads off to work.

 Charles Stephen Hartung Upon graduating from Albany Area High School in 1984 Chuck enlisted in the Navy. After attending boot camp and Machinist Mate school he completed nuclear power training and served aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). While serving as an instructor at the Naval Nuclear Power School in Orlando he was selected by the Navy to attend Nursing School. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida in 1995 with his Bachelors in Nursing. Following tours in Jacksonville, FL and the island of Guam he earned his Master's from Marymount University in Arlington, VA. Upon graduation he remained in the Washington, DC area completing tours at the National Naval Medical Center and the White House Medical Unit, where he served as Chief Nurse. He is currently serving at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.

 Dr. Neil A. Hukriede A 1987 graduate of Albany Area High School, Neil Hukriede attended Minnesota State University-Moorhead, graduating cum laude in 1991 with a B.A. degree in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. In 1997 he earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Genetics and Developmental Biology from the University of Rochester, New York. Dr. Hukriede went on to a post-doctoral research position at the National Institutes of Health, where he completed a National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council Associateship. In 2002, he joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where he currently serves as an Associate Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Developmental Biology. Dr. Hukriede is the recipient of over a dozen research awards to date, including the Basil O’Connor Award from the March of Dimes and the Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Award from the American Society of Nephrology.

 Don Schiffler A 1963 graduate of Albany High School, Don went on to earn a B.S. degree in Economics and Business Management from St. Cloud State University. Upon graduating from SCSU, he started his business career in the Steam and Gas Turbine manufacturing field. In 1978 he became a business owner of St. Cloud Industrial Products, Inc. Don was instrumental in his company developing one of the earlier Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) companies in the U.S., a company which is now 80% employee owned. For Don, education--which for him began here in Albany--has been and continues to be a lifelong journey. During Don’s businesscareer, he started, developed, or acquired over 20 companies, two of which are located in Albany. He continues to be active in mentoring small businesses as chairman of Central Minnesota SCORE (Senior Corp Of Retired Executives). As stated in a recent article of Business Central Magazine, Don is best known as an eternal optimist. His strength in nurturing and educating others to become the best they can be has encouraged fellow staff and family members to venture into the business world.


Eileen Garding, who will be honored posthumously, was a deeply loved and respected teacher who served the Albany Area School District for twenty-six years, beginning in 1954 and ending with her retirement in 1980. During that time she taught English, health, and physical education; she also directed school plays and for a brief period of time managed the school library. Featured in the 1970 edition of Outstanding Educators of America, Garding was also recognized in 1976 as an Outstanding Leader in Elementary and Secondary Education. Eileen Garding believed passionately in the importance of working one-on-one with students to help them reach their full potential; a demanding teacher, she insisted that students could meet the high standards their teachers set for them. Her desire to teach did not end upon her retirement. At age 94 her love for literature was still evident as she read the works of the great authors to fellow residents at Assumption Nursing Home in Cold Spring. Eileen Garding left an indelible mark on the life of her students. As one former superintendent put it after observing her class, “I wish I had 100 Eileen Gardings.”

 LeRoy Thelen served on the Albany Area School Board for over thirty years, during which time he held all of the officer positions, served as an effective leader on the board committees, and was a great mentor for new members. He was committed to strengthening academics by increasing rigor in both course content and delivery and worked tirelessly to make our school district a safe, encouraging environment for all students. Throughout his tenure, Thelen’s primary concern was the education of Albany Area School students. Honored by the Minnesota School Board Association for his dedicated service to education, Thelen took pride in that whenever faced with a difficult decision, his consideration was always, “What is best for the students?”

Sarah (Paulsen) Borgerding A 1998 graduate of Albany Area High School, Sarah Borgerding continued her education at Minnesota State University-Moorhead where she earned a B.A. degree in Economics and a B.S. degree in Business Administration, graduating magna cum laude in 2003. Accepted into the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, she received her Master’s in Healthcare Administration degree in 2005. She is currently employed in Strategic Planning and Business Development at Yale New Haven Health System, the flagship of which is Yale New Haven Hospital, cited by U. S. News and World Reports as one of America’s Best Hospitals. Active in her Connecticut community, Borgerding is a founding member of the Shelton Connecticut Friends of the Library and the Young Leaders Society of the United Way of Greater New Haven.

Mark E. Felling A 1995 graduate of Albany Area High School, Mark Felling attended North Dakota State University and in 1999 earned a custom degree with a focus on Electrical Engineering, Business and International Studies. Pursuing his collegiate studies in both Mexico and Russia, Felling later earned a Master’s of Business of Administration degree from Regis University in Denver, Colorado, in 2006, graduating with honors. Seriously injured in a 2003 plane crash, Felling chose to turn a traumatic personal setback into an opportunity to serve others, founding Broadened Horizons, Inc., a company which designs, manufactures and markets unique adaptive technologies providing independence to disabled individuals with upper extremity Technology Advisory Council.

Dr. Laura (Eikmeier) Janke A 1992 graduate of Albany Area High School, Janke attended Concordia College-Moorhead, graduating magna cum laude with a B.A. degree in biology and psychology. In 2004 she earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Minnesota with a major in Molecular Veterinary Biosciences. Continuing with her studies, Janke went on to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine, in 2006, and later was a resident in Veterinary Anatomic Pathology at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in St. Paul, Minnesota. The recipient of the C. L. Davis Foundation for the Advancement of Veterinary Pathology Student Scholarship Award, Dr. Janke currently serves as an Assistant Member of the St. Jude Faculty as a Veterinary Anatomic Pathologist at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Dr. Jeffrey A. Vos Graduating in 1989 from Albany Area High School, Vos went on to earn a B.A. degree in chemistry from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, then earned a medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1997. From 1998-2002 Vos was a resident in Anatomic Pathology/ Clinical Pathology at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Ft. Lewis, Washington, where in 2002 he received the General Floyd L. Wergeland Award for most outstanding graduating resident from a four-year program. From 2004-2008 Vos served as a staff pathologist (Major, U.S. Army) at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. He currently serves as Associate Professor, West Virginia School of Medicine, West Virginia University

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