Al Austin family contributes fund to Center for Community Engagement

The family of Alvin E. Austin, a University of North Dakota educator for over 30 years who retired in 1980, has given a fund in his name to support the UND Center for Community Engagement through the UND Foundation. The announcement was made at the Center’s grand opening ceremony Sept. 28, at its new location, 317 Cambridge Street, on the UND campus.

Austin, a UND professor from 1946 to 1980 who chaired the Journalism Department for more than 20 of those years, has been remembered by his former colleagues and students as an outstanding teacher, mentor, and community member. Austin died in 1999.

A life-long native of Grand Forks, Austin earned a B.A. in journalism from UND in 1931. He was a night editor for the Grand Forks Herald in the 1930s and 1940s and wrote a popular column in that newspaper, “Looking Around with Al Austin” in the 1940s and 1950s. He was a news and editorial consultant for various newspapers in the country and held several national offices, including national president of the Society of Journalism School Administrators and national vice president of Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists.

Austin also had a distinguished public career. He was an alderman for the Fifth Ward on the Grand Forks City Council and president of the City Council. He served on the Mayor’s Committee on Improving Election Procedures in Grand Forks and was a special consultant and assistant for the Garrison Conservancy District.

He was awarded many honors, including the highest honor of the UND Alumni Association, the Sioux Award, and was named a national Distinguished Teacher of Journalism by Sigma Delta Chi.

Austin earned accolades from many at events in his honor at his retirement and death. He was credited with treasuring the First Amendment and the people’s right to know, with launching his students into their careers with field trips and job contacts, and with bringing a sense of humor to the classroom and newsroom.

The Al Austin Fund will be used to support the operations and programming of the Center for Community Engagement. The Center was created in 2004 to connect faculty and students with communities through classroom and research opportunities. Contributions to the fund are being accepted through the UND Foundation at 777-2611 or may be made online at the Center’s website,