Mark Oja grew up in St. Paul, but when he was a sophomore in high school the Oja family made the move to Redwood Falls.
“”My father started a manufacturing business (Activeaid) in St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1965,” explained Oja, adding it was in 1967 when they moved west.
As a 10th grader Oja started in a new school.
Oja graduated from Redwood Falls High School in 1970, and he opted to attend the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota.
Seeking a business degree, Oja grew impatient with liberal arts courses, which led him to the Minnesota School of Business in Minneapolis where he graduated with “higher honors” in Spring 1974 with a major in accounting and a minor in business management.
As a student at Redwood Falls High School, Oja was involved in the debate team, he served as the home football game broadcast booth student spotter, was on the homecoming and prom committees, was a member of the National Honor Society, served on the student paper and was a member of the golf and track teams.
According to Oja, “about halfway through my first year at RFHS I was called to the principal’s office to see Mr. Ramseth. He informed me that I was about to fail my sophomore year. He told me ‘Mark, I know you can do better.’ I made a change at that moment and engaged myself academically from then on. I progressively improved and eventually made the ‘A’ Honor Roll my senior year. I progressed to near the top 10 of my class at graduation.”
“I was unsure about returning to Redwood Falls after having been born and raised in Saint Paul, and having attended college in Saint Paul and Minneapolis,” explained Oja.
At a grade school age Oja started “working” for his dad for 25 cents per hour. He was always associated with his businesses, and knew what Activeaid entailed and what potential it had to grow and succeed. So he always had an interest to work in it, which would require him to come back to Redwood Falls.
“What brought me back to Redwood Falls was near the end of my college years, when my dad and I had a ‘business lunch’ at the famous Murray's Steakhouse in downtown Minneapolis,” added Oja.
A serious business discussion developed, and the lunch discussion ended with an offer for him to join the business and start at $625 per month (fellow MSB graduates were being placed in other businesses at $575 per month).
He took the offer, and the rest is history.
Oja has been involved through the years with a number of community organizations, and with the Redwood Area Schools through his two sons as they progressed. Both were very involved in extracurricular activities including band, choir and sports.
According to Oja, “the local school district today remains very progressive, as has been evident from the plethora of changes that have occurred through the years that I have seen being a member of this community.”
Oja has been involved in education, including being an ECFE board member in the early years.
“I enjoyed my time with a group at the direction of the Redwood Area School Board to look into the concept of year-round education, to financially assisting the Redwood school district through the years with various donations and most recently with a donation to the senior center addition of the RACC and being a member of the task force for the development of the Estebo Center,” explained Oja.
For these and other reasons Oja was inducted into the Redwood Area School District Hall of Fame.
“It is a great honor to be inducted into the Redwood Area Schools Hall of Fame, and be among all of the distinguished inductees. I am especially pleased to now be an inductee alongside my long-time friend and fellow RFHS 1970 classmate and alumni inductee Doug Lennick who was inducted in 2010,” he added.
Oja and his wife, Dorie, enjoy traveling and still call Redwood Falls their home.