AHS alumni to honor Potach, Morrison; Award recipients distinguished selves in cancer research fundraising, higher education

Published 8:17 am Friday, September 15, 2017

By Tim Ruzek

Tickets are now on sale for a Sept. 28 reception that will honor this year’s Austin High School Distinguished Alumni.

Dr. Kurt Potach, Class of 1972; and the late Michael Morrison, Class of 1964, have been selected as the 2017 Distinguished Alumni by the Austin High School Alumni and Friends Association.

Dr. Kurt Potach, Class of 1972

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Potach, a long-time Austin dentist, is a senior partner of Potach & Mitchell Dental Clinic and president of the Karl R. Potach Foundation that to date has raised about $1 million for cancer research and pediatric causes.

Morrison, who died in 2015, served as president of North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City, Iowa, from 2001to 2008 and earned many awards for his academic leadership in higher education during his career.

Potach and the Morrison family will be part of a reception and dinner on Thursday, Sept. 28, along with taking in Austin High School’s homecoming festivities on Friday, Sept. 29, including the afternoon parade and Packers football game against Northfield.

The public is invited to attend the Sept. 28 reception at the Hormel Historic Home in Austin. Tickets must be purchased by Sept. 22 for the 6 p.m. dinner by calling the Austin Public Education Foundation office at 460-1938 or by emailing jeni.lindberg@austin.k12.mn.us. Tickets are $30 per person.

A school assembly is set for 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28 at Austin High’s Knowlton Auditorium, where Potach and the Morrison family will speak to the student body.

Potach, who played hockey and golf at AHS and was a National Honor Society member, has practiced dentistry in Austin since 1982 when he moved back after teaching at University of Minnesota’s School of Denistry.

Potach and his wife, Brenda, are the parents of AHS graduates Kira (2009); Karyn (2013); and Kory (2017).

Their son, Karl, passed away in 1997 from pediatric cancer and is the namesake of the Karl R. Potach Foundation formed in 1998. The foundation raises funds annually to support cancer research at The Hormel Institute in Austin, the Children’s Cancer Research Fund and Mayo Clinic. In 2012, the Potach family and friends funded the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic at the Mayo Clinic Health System campus in Austin to serve area youth.

For nearly three decades, Potach has served on the YMCA of Austin’s board of directors, Austin Noon Lions Club and with his church. He also has been a volunteer youth hockey coach for more than 15 years and done missionary dental service in Honduras.

Michael Morrison, Class of 1964

Drawing on his father’s advice that helped form his life’s philosophy and guided him to success, Potach encourages students to identify their passions and follow their dreams, working “with all their might” at whatever they choose for a profession.

“Your potential is limited only by the effort you put forth,” Potach said.

He also says to ensure you make every day count and make community service a priority.

“Be involved and invest in your community, always making sure to give back more than you take,” he said.

Morrison, who wrestled at AHS, served in administrative roles at NIACC from 1989 to 2008 and at North Dakota State University’s College of Science from 1970 to 1989, where he began as a sociology instructor. Morrison earned degrees from the University of Minnesota, including a doctorate in educational administration.

In his career, Morrison received various accolades, including the Iowa Outstanding President Award in 2005 and an Award of Merit in 2004-2005 he shared with U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin. Among his accomplishments at NIACC, Morrison created an on-campus business incubator, offered early college opportunities for students at 26 area high schools, and set enrollment records for six-straight years.

Despite facing decreased funding, Morrison created at least 10 new NIACC programs to keep pace with the changing needs of business and industry, including a TechPrep initiative that made NIACC a leader in Iowa and the nation.

His wife, Pat, said her husband’s philosophy was to be passionate in your work although that alone won’t bring success; you need to work well with others and continually seek “win-win” relationships and ideas.

“Realize your own potential and recognize the potential in others – in your professional life as well as your personal life, and be willing to lead, guide and encourage others to reach their full potential,” she said.

Pat Morrison, a 1964 graduate of Austin Pacelli High School, also said students should set goals and a vision for their future, realizing that every day is an opportunity to learn.

“Be willing to share your talents with others by becoming active in your community,” she said. “Above all, make your family your first priority.”

Morrison also is survived by his three adult children, Scott; Melanie; and Michael.