Rick Thielen came to Redwood Falls in 1972.

Having been raised on a dairy farm near Pierz as the youngest of three children, Thielen was exposed to his future career when his dad moved away from farming and purchased a school bus company in Little Falls.

“My dad was in a farming accident,” said Thielen.

Having graduated from Father Pierz Memorial High School in 1965, Thielen furthered his education at St. Cloud State University graduating in 1970. During those years in college, Thielen had the opportunity to drive buses as he transported National Guard members on the weekends.

Early on, those who knew Thielen would recognize he was one who demonstrated a strong work ethic. That would serve him well when Thielen decided business ownership was his future, and so he and his father began looking for that opportunity. They looked at a number of school bus companies before opting to purchase a business in Redwood Falls.

“I bought the bus company from Tom Arnett,” said Thielen, adding he got married, signed the contracts on his honeymoon and moved to his new home all within a period of three weeks. “I was 25 and owned my own business.”

Nearly five decades later, 47 years to be exact, Thielen is still involved in the business that has consistently focused on providing safe transportation for the children of the Redwood Falls area.

Thielen said Tom Arnett stayed with the company for another year to provide guidance for the new business owner and even continued driving school bus.

Today Thielen works side by side with his son, Joe, who is now the primary owner and operator of Thielen Bus Lines, which includes the school bus transportation service as well as the line of coaches that provides transportation for the public throughout the United States and Canada.

Thielen purchased his first charter coach in 1976, and now the company provides transportation services through the use of more than 25 school buses and vans, as well as nine luxury coaches. For 12 years Thielen Travel Services was also part of the company’s portfolio.

"We have been blessed over the years with a very dedicated and loyal group of drivers,” said Thielen, adding the Thielen Bus commitment to keeping kids safe continues through the 45 full- and part-time employees who work for Thielen.

Beyond his own business, Thielen has demonstrated a commitment to the community, as he was a founding board member of the Redwood Valley Booster Club, which helped raise funds to ensure the extra-curricular programs in the local school district continue.

Thielen has four children, Jeff, Jon, Jean and Joe, and all of them are Redwood Valley graduates.

For 25 years Thielen has also been a part of the Redwood Industries group, which has helped to enhance the local economy, and for 19 years Thielen has served as that entity’s president.

Thielen is being recognized for his commitment to education and the community by being inducted into the Redwood Area School District Hall of Fame.

“This is a great honor for me,” said Thielen, adding that recognition is something that he will cherish for the rest of his life.