The Redwood Area Education Foundation is pleased to announce this year’s inductees into the Redwood Area Hall of Fame.

This year’s inductees are Richard Jaehning and Mark Oja in the alumni category, Tom Hollatz in the community category and Gary Bestmann in the staff /faculty category.

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 degree 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. 

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.

Jaehning in retirement helped set up banking systems in developing countries. He passed away in 2013.

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, has customers all over the world and is an important part of the Redwood Falls community.

Oja has also been very active in 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.

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 Falls 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.

Bestmann graduated from St. Clair High School in 1963. He graduated from Mankato State University with a degree 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, Kansas.

He joined the Redwood Falls School District as a middle-school/high-school band director in 1971 and continued in that role until his retirement in 2003. As a middle-school director, 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.

Typically induction of the Hall of Fame members takes place during the Evening of the Stars event. However, the Redwood Area Education Foundation and the Redwood Area Dollars for Scholars, Orrin S. Estebo Chapter are disappointed to announce that the Evening of the Stars scheduled for May 13, 2020 has been cancelled.

With a great deal of uncertainty regarding when large gatherings will be safe and allowed, the decision was made to cancel.

The Dollars for Scholars scholarships and other scholarships for the Redwood Valley High School Class of 2020 will be announced on video at a date yet to be determined.

Coordinators of the annual event are exploring ways to honor the Hall of Fame inductees and also education foundation and Dollars for Scholars donors.

While those involved are sad for this year’s seniors and honorees, safety is of course their first priority.

Watch for more information on scholarship announcements, Hall of Fame and other honors on the school district Web site at www.redwoodareaschools.com.