2020-21 Alumni Awards

2020-21 Alumni Awards

Outstanding Graduate Award was given to Celeste Moberg Chayabutr – Class of 1963

Celeste Moberg Chayabutr is a 1963 graduate of Taylors Falls High School and a mathematician. Her academic and professional accomplishments in her field offer an unquestionable criteria for her award as “Outstanding Graduate”. A secondary consideration for the award is that mathematics is a field in which women are a distinct minority. “There aren’t very many of us,” she commented. Although Celeste observed that she entered the field and continued from one level to the next solely in pursuit of her goals in mathematics.

Another is that Celeste is the oldest daughter of legendary high school math teacher E. Holger Moberg. His legacy as a math teacher par excellence is cherished by generations of T.F. students. Celeste took it to the nth degree. She magnifies her father’s love of mathematics and his innate and accomplished intellect for the subject.

Celeste was the Valedictorian of her high school class. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1967 with B.A. Degrees in Math and Art and a minor in Education. She completed a Master of Arts in Teaching from Harvard University in 1968. In 1971 she received an M.A. in Mathematics from Western Michigan University. In 1987 Celeste finished her Ph.D work in mathematics at the University of Minnesota. Her thesis topic: The Purity of the Frobenius and the Upper Bound Conjecture for Combinatorial Manifolds.

“Dad strongly encouraged me to take a math course when I was choosing what to take as a freshman at Gustavus,” said Celeste. She wondered at the time if she could compete with students from the “big cities”. It was not an issue, she added, “because of the preparation I received from Dad at TFHS”. That first college math course led the way to graduate studies in mathematics.

Celeste also observed that “Dad” emphasized “figuring out things for myself and not to go looking for help right away when hitting a stumbling block”. It was a lesson in perseverance that served her well academically and in her professional life. Celeste’s academic career included several teaching assistantships: 1970-1971 at Western Michigan University; 1974-1978 at the University of Minnesota. At both institutions she was recognized by their mathematics departments with an “Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award”.

After Celeste was married in 1972 she moved to Bangkok, Thailand for three years. There she taught Mathematics at Thammasat University in Bangkok. Celeste spent most of her professional career in the private sector. She was a Sr. Software Engineer at Unisys Corporation in Roseville from 1978-2007. From 2008 until retirement in 2019 Celeste was a Sr. Software Engineer at Fision Corporation in Minneapolis. Celeste appreciates her Swedish heritage. Again her dad was in the background and encouraged her to learn the Swedish language. She studied Swedish at Gustavus. That endeavor did not end there. For the past ten years or so she has taken Swedish lessons at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis and now enjoys reading Swedish crime novels in Swedish. Celeste lives in Arden Hills with her husband, Pratana. They have three children and six grandchildren.

Outstanding Staff/Faculty Award was given to Dr. Bill Young – School Board Member 1974 -1983

Bill was born and raised in Farmington, Minnesota. He graduated from Farmington High School in 1953 and had the good fortune to attend Camp Frontenac where he met Barbara Fair whom he would marry five years later in the Camp Chapel.

After graduating from Hamline University in 1957, Bill attended the University of Wisconsin /Madison where he received a Masters in Chemistry. Beginning in 1959 he taught at Edina High School while he and Barb lived and began raising their three children in Bloomington.

In 1967 and after eight years of teaching, Bill entered the University of Minnesota Medical School while Barb taught school during the four years of his medical training. Following his Family Practice Residency, Dr. Young was recruited in 1972 by TFHS Alumnus, Dr. Leo Nelson (Class of 1953), to join the practice in St. Croix Falls. The family moved into the Hobb’s House located in the historic Angel Hill District of Taylors Falls. It was Bill’s mother, Amy Falk Young (TFHS Class of 1915) who had located the home for sale.

Their three young children at the time, Eric (12), Christopher (11), and Amy (8) were excited to attend a new school after their 1,000 student-body elementary school in Bloomington. Eric pointed out a real difference by declaring, “The big kids talk to you here!” As a former teacher, education was a priority to Bill. In 1974 he was voted onto the Taylors Falls School Board and served for the next nine years. Carlyle Klinke was the board chair that first year, but Dr. Young followed in the role for the next eight years. Bill states that…

…it was obvious that this was a school of quality. It was a positive time with smaller
class sizes, teachers like Holger Moberg and Norm Nagasawa, visionary leaders like Superintendent Sig Rimestad and Board Members like Jerry Vitalis. I appreciated the way our community supported the school. The honor of congratulating the new graduates as they received diplomas was a special joy, and seeing new faculty members like Joe Thimm as they joined the staff was rewarding as they improved the school.

Several issues of note during the time Bill selflessly served his on the school board were Title IX and Public Law 94–142. Title IX sought to protect people from discrimination based on gender in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Public Law 94-142 guaranteed a free and appropriate public education to each child with a disability. While both of these federal mandates had positive and profound effects on students, it was the charge of Dr. Young and his fellow board members to make sure funding was available for implementation while keeping local school district taxes within reason. They did both.

Dr. Bill Young served on the TFHS School Board until 1983 when all his children had graduated: Eric – Class of ‘78, Christopher, Class of ‘79, and Amy, Class ‘82.

His other community activism has included volunteering for the TF Historical Society, the Annual TF Lighting Festival, the TF United Methodist Church, and TF Lions Club. Dr. Young retired from medicine in 2015 at age 80. He and Barb celebrated their 63rd Wedding Anniversary on June 29, 2021, at that (former) Camp Frontenac Chapel.

Outstanding Staff/Faculty Award was given to Mary Anne Mattson – School Secretary 1979-1993

Mary Anne Mattson was born in Blaine, Minnesota, to Roy and Alpha Rickaby, the youngest of four children. Her parents were small dairy farmers. They sold the Rickaby home place in 1956 and moved to a farm north of Center City, MN. She spent the last two years of her high school years at the Lindstrom-Center City High School (Chi-Hi) graduating in 1958.

Upon graduation Mary Anne worked at Minneapolis Honeywell in the Spare Parts Department and was classified as a “secret classification” employee. Her outstanding typing skills made her an asset there and in future jobs. She married Buddy Mattson during those years. After the birth of their first daughter, Lynn, she took a job at State Farm Insurance in Roseville. Mary Anne also worked part time at the local newspaper, The Standard Press, in St. Croix Falls, WI, for several years as a key-punch operator.
Her husband, Joe (Buddy) Mattson whom she met in high school at Lindstrom-Center City High School, have been married for 60 years and have lived and farmed on Unity Ave in Taylors Falls for 50 years.

Taylors Falls School Involvement 1979-1993
In November of 1979 Mary Anne was hired by Superintendent Sig Rimestad to work with finances at the Taylors Falls School. This included recording the revenues, disbursements, and journal entries for the district as required to be reported to the state. She also played a supporting role as an assistant to Superintendent Rimestad.

Working In a small school setting office, Mary Anne was involved in a multitude of duties and responsibilities during the school day including, but not limited to: greeting visitors, selling lunch tickets in the morning, disbursing medications at noon, composing, printing and distributing the monthly newsletter, calculating school bus ridership and reporting to the state for reimbursement, answering phone calls. She did it all with thoughtfulness and a smile. Mary Anne, ever humble, wanted to recognize office staff who worked at TF prior to her tenure and with her including Ethel Anderson, Evie Carlson, and Verna Grover.

Open Enrollment & Cooperation and Combination
Mary Ann was at Taylors Falls School when the State of Minnesota began “Open Enrollment.” This allowed families to apply to attend other schools. Of course, when the students left, the revenues followed them, making it a very difficult time for small schools. After a few years the topic of “Cooperation and Combination” with the Chisago Lakes School District was being discussed. The Class of 1992 had the option of attending Chisago Lakes and could graduate either from Taylors Falls or Chisago Lakes.

In the interim Sig Rimestad retired, and there was a teacher-led team that served as School Leaders. Darrold Williams was superintendent of Chisago Lakes and helped to oversee the Taylors Falls School. Mary Ann played a vital role in helping to make the transition as seamless as possible, working closely on the budget with Mr. Williams.

The official combination of Taylors Falls School and Chisago Lakes School took place July 1, 1993. Mary Ann was transferred to the District Office in Lindstrom where she worked in the Payroll and Benefits Department until her retirement in 2006. In all, Mary Anne dedicated 13 years at Taylors Falls School District #140 and another 14 years at the Chisago Lakes Area Schools District #2144 for 13 years for a total of 27 years.

In addition to her devotion to the TF School, Mary Anne and Buddy raised four outstanding graduates of TFHS: Lynn – Class of 1979, Janna – Class of 1980, Julie – Class of 1982, and Lisa – Class of 1990.
They appreciated the friendships formed, community support, and caring teachers that made up the fabric of ISD #140. Additionally they’ve had two grandsons and one granddaughter who attended TF Elementary.

Outstanding Citizen Award was given to Skip Pearson – Class of 1968

Skip spent his first eighteen years in Taylors Falls. He had a joyful, but rather sheltered, childhood. Having grown up in a small town, Skip says “Our most important challenge may be to not become cynical as our view of the world broadens.”

Early on, his primary interests revolved around sports. He played football, basketball, and baseball in high school. Skip was rather shy, even for a Swede. He didn’t have a date for the junior prom, but the pressure was on to get one, so he mustered up the courage to ask a senior, Gloria Ahlstrand. She was heading off to college in a few months, so he thought, “After all, what could come of that?” (Five years later they were married!)

Skip took his love of sports to the freshman basketball team at St. Cloud State. At the end of the season, his coach told Skip he was welcome to try out for the varsity team, but he also gently asked if he would be interested in the position of Freshman team student manager. Skip laughingly said that he got the message. It was then that he decided it would be prudent to concentrate on his education.

In 1977, Skip graduated from law school. After 12 years of private practice, he became a trial court judge in the St. Cloud area. Since ‘justice delayed’ is often ‘justice denied’, a judge’s primary focus has to be finding a balance between keeping cases moving and giving them the attention they need. In addition to being a trial court judge, Skip was also involved in the emerging area of specialty courts, such as drug courts, alcohol treatment courts, or veterans courts. These are designed to focus on the needs of particular populations, unique situations, or a particular problem within the community.

He became the lead judicial representative during the establishment of the Stearns County Domestic Violence Courts. With the help of federal grants and the cooperation of many local government agencies, this court became a nationwide model for court systems willing to recognize and deal with an issue that harms so many people and every community.

Skip and Gloria are happy in their retirement. Their two children are each enjoying vocations they showed an interest in at a very early age. After a fifty-year absence, Skip and Gloria have recently purchased a townhome in the St. Croix Valley.

Skip muses, as an afterthought, “The allure of the valley is strong, but we lack the courage to stay through the winters!”

Extra Curricular Award was given to Jerry Vitalis – Class of 1954

Jerry Vitalis was born and raised on the family farm in Taylors Falls where hard work and determination developed his athletic skills. He enjoyed playing whatever sport was in season and that meant participating and excelling in Football, Basketball, and Track at TFHS..

Jerry recounts his days at TFHS including the winter break of 1951-52 when, as a sophomore, he and his fellow classmates loaded up books, small furniture, equipment, supplies, and anything that would fit on the buses from Kingsbury School and then unloaded them at the newly constructed school building on West Street.

Playing football all four years, Jerry remembers that they “never had a place to practice or even a home field, because the new school was being built on the football field. (During his) last two years home games were played on the St. Croix Falls field. By the time we were seniors we had a winning team.” The new larger gym with its parquet floor was impressive; most of all because it was level, unlike the old gym floor where a ball placed on center court would roll to one side.

Besides sports, Jerry was in Choir, FFA Honors, and most notably achieved the reputation of stealing the scene as “Banjo, the Hollywood Agenda” in his Senior Class production of “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” Always a regal fellow, Jerry was a part of Court Royalty at both his Junior Prom and as a Senior on the Homecoming Court.

After graduating from TFHS in 1954, he took over farming the home place as his father fell ill. He attended the University of Minnesota earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Education (1969). He returned to the U/M and earned his Masters Degree while he taught in the Minneapolis School District (Hall, Holland, and Webster Schools) for 30 years. Although Jerry officially “retired” from the MSD, he’s never stopped working.

Jerry was elected to the TF School Board in 1977, through the consolidation of Taylors Falls School District and Chisago Lakes School District (1992), and on the board at CLSD. When he retired in 2020, Jerry had served 43 ½ years continuously, longer than anyone in Minnesota history. The 2008 addition to TFS is named in his honor.

In addition to his vocation as an educator and school board member, Jerry has served his community as a Master Gardener, member and chair of the Chisago County Relay for Life, Superintendent of the Chisago Lakes Lutheran Sunday School, CLL Trustee, member and contributor to the Taylors Falls Historical Center, and founding board member of the Taylors Falls School Foundation. His awards and honors are too numerous to list here, but a recent recognition was being named to the Chisago Lakes Wildcat Hall of Fame.

To learn more about Jerry, read his article “Jerry Vitalis’ School Memories” in the Fall 2020 edition of the TF Historical Society’s Life & Time in Taylors Falls.