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NDSU Athletics Establishes Ade Sponberg Endowment

FARGO – The North Dakota State University athletic department has established the Ade Sponberg Endowment, named after the former Bison athletic director of 14 years from 1973 to 1986. Sponberg was inducted into the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996.

The endowment was initiated by Sponberg’s son, Steve, and daughter-in-law, Kellie. It is their hope that Ade Sponberg’s legacy of achievement and progressive vision will inspire others to support NDSU student-athletes in their pursuit of athletic administration excellence.

Sponberg’s charisma and commitment to the student-athletes set him apart from his contemporaries. His empathy, commitment to inclusion, and willingness to creatively embrace challenges fostered a sense of pride and optimism in the athletic department as well as in the lives of student-athletes. He demanded excellence in education along with personal accountability in athletics.

The inaugural scholarship recipient from the Ade Sponberg Endowment is wrestler Jared Franek, a sophomore from Harwood who has the top grade-point average among student-athletes, enrolled in the NDSU sport management program.

“We are proud of the academic standards set for NDSU’s student-athletes along with the effort and personal sacrifice they put into attaining them,” said Steve. “We are excited to create an endowment that recognizes those efforts and assists those who excel in passionately pursuing their goals and dreams.”

Under Ade Sponberg’s leadership, NDSU won three football national championships, more than 30 North Central Conference titles, and made numerous NCAA playoff appearances across five sports. He was the driving force behind the blossoming women’s athletic program and was a major influence on the NCAA at the national level.

Steve, who was a member of the football program at North Dakota State from 1977 to 1980, was part of an NCC championship in 1977 with a Bison team that advanced to the NCAA Division II semifinals.

“Reflecting on an amazing set of memories from my time as a Bison student-athlete – from the first touchdown catch to the last gathering of seniors in the championship room – the most enduring is the tradition of excellence I felt on the field as well as in the classroom,” Steve said. “I competed alongside incredible teammates and am proud and grateful to have played for the program while my dad was at the helm.”

Ade Sponberg’s personality was shaped growing up as a southern Minnesota farm boy. A native of New Richland, Minn., he graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1958 and earned a master’s degree in physical education from Minnesota State University Mankato. He completed a doctor of philosophy degree in physical education and administration from the University of Michigan.

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