Now in its 30th year of almost annual programs, Dickinson CommUniversity began in 1980 under the leadership of Rev. Pete Hinrichs of St. John Lutheran Church and Ozzie Belsheim, Professor of Music. Grants from the North Dakota Humanities Council brought well-known historian Dr. Hiram Drache from Concordia College to campus for the keynote address, and local faculty and community members presented mini-courses on topics of interest to the general public. After a few years, leadership of the program shifted to the Teacher Education Department, primarily falling on the shoulders of Travis Haakedahl until his untimely death in the mid-1990s. From then until his retirement over 10 years later, Dr. Carl Larson of the Department of Language and Literature directed CommUniversity. For the last few years Dr. Dave Solheim has coordinated the efforts.
CommUniversity has continued financial cooperation to this day with occasional, partial funding from the NDHC and significant donations from local businesses and participants to fund the presentations. CU also promotes interaction between the “town and gown” as it features instructors and audience participation from both sides of this proverbial dichotomy. CommUniversity is dedicated to lifelong learning and hopes to attract a wide range of participants through its continuing motto of “No homework and no exams.” While humanities courses in history, literature, music, and international culture have formed most of the content, in recent years there have been increased numbers of courses in applied and natural sciences including astronomy, geology, agriculture, geneology, and computer science. Courses are typically held on Sunday afternoons in February, and for the last four years have utilized the classrooms of Hawks Point Retirement Community on the DSU Campus.