On Wednesday, the Redwood Area Education Foundation announced this year’s inductees into the Redwood Area Schools Hall of Fame: Richard Jaehning and Mark Oja in the Alumni category, Tom Hollatz in the Community category, and Gary Bestmann in the Staff/faculty category.  

Usually the induction of the Hall of Fame takes place at the annual Evening of the Stars event. However, organizers expect that there will be changes this year due to the restrictions on large gatherings.  More information will follow.

Richard Jaehning was born in Morton to Grover and Louise Jaehning   After serving in the military he graduated from St. Cloud Teacher’s College and the University of Minnesota, receiving his B.A. in Business Administration in 1948.  He began his career with Seattle First National Bank (Seafirst) as a collections agent. He moved steadily up the ranks at Seafirst eventually starting Seafirst’s credit card operations, one of the earliest in the country.  His expertise in this field led to him becoming one of the founders of MasterCard started by the Interbank Association. Mr. Jaehning served as the Association’s first Vice Chairman and became Chairman in 1972. He was responsible for acquiring the now instantly recognizable symbol for MasterCard, the interlocking gold and orange circles.  Mr. Jaehning in retirement helped set up banking systems in developing countries. He passed away in 2013.

Mark Oja graduated from Redwood Falls High School in 1970.  He attended the University of Minnesota before transferring to the Minnesota School of Business graduating with an accounting major and business management minor.  Oja started his career as an accountant at Activeaid, Inc. He eventually served as the Chief Financial Officer, the President and CEO. He became the majority owner and served as a director and Chairman of the Board.  Activeaid, Inc., a manufacturing company that specializes in rehabilitation equipment and medical devices, which has customers all over the world and is an important part of the Redwood Falls community. Oja has also been very active in the First Presbyterian Church, serving as a Deacon and in other roles.  He is an active member of the Rotary Club, serving as President and receiving the Paul Harris Fellow Award multiple times.  

Tom Hollatz graduated from St. Ansgar High School in Iowa in 1968.  He graduated from the University of Iowa in 1972 and the Colorado Graduate School of Banking in 1980.  He began his career at the Merchants National Bank of Winona in 1972. He served at the First State Bank in Webster City and the State Bank of Redwood before joining Thrivent Financial in 1993.  Hollatz has been in many leadership roles in this community. He served on the Redwood Area School District Board for 26 years, serving as its chair. He demonstrated great skill at working with diverse groups, often with conflicting views.  He has been a member of Lions International for 44 years, served on the Service Enterprises board for 25 years as well as several other community organizations.

Gary Bestmann graduated from St. Clair, Minnesota High School in 1963.  He graduated from Mankato State University with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education in 1966 and went on to receive his Masters of Music Performance.  While serving in the Armed Forces he received his diploma from the Armed Forces School of Music. Bestmann worked as the Training NCO/Rehearsal Conductor of the 371st Army Band in Fort Leavenworth, KS.  He joined the Redwood Falls School District as a Middle School/High School Band Director from 1971 until his retirement in 2003.  As a Middle School Director, Mr. Bestmann was able to nurture beginning band students as he taught them the fundamentals of instrumental music along with a sense of commitment to be the best band member possible.  Under his direction the bands performed in excellence equal to many high school bands. Bestmann was the Redwood Falls Teacher of the Year in 1985.