New Assistant A&S Dean tells tales beyond the office

Ann Kopecky

Ann Kopecky

His office in 251 NFA is like no other office on campus.

On the south wall of his 8 ft by 10 ft office lies six shelves of books on curriculum, English and various other topics. Above his computer desk, lies a collage of Curious George memorabilia, track and cross country trophies and ribbons and a small cut-out figure of John Wayne. Plaques and pictures of his days of coaching can be found around the office. In the southwest corner, a plaque signifies his judgeship of the Miss Teen National Pageant.

Dan Landes is the new assistant dean of the College of Arts and Science and while he has only held his position for a few months, his office of collections tells a story of an eventful path.

Each weekday students file in and out of his office with questions about transfer credits, petitions and registration. Questions of “How would these credits transfer in?” “Can you sign this petition?” and “What classes should I be taking?” fill his daily agenda.

But the one question that students fail to ask is: “What is the story behind each unique item in Landes’s office?”

His wall of diplomas from Minot State University, Bemidji State University and the University of North Dakota signifies his long-time educational career in history, education, English and theater.

Landes began his teaching career at a small country school near Williston, N.D. The young Landes, just out of the Marine Corps, decided to try teaching at the school after the previous teacher left due to problems with students.

With a bachelor’s degree in history and education from Minot State University, Landes took on the job of teaching every subject to the sixth through eighth grade students.

“It seemed like a wonderful way to make a living,” Landes said.

But teaching wasn’t Landes’ only job at the school. He was the janitor and the coach of the cross-country, track and basketball teams. He lived in the basement of the school and his wife worked as the school cook.

“It all kind of started at that country school,” Landes said. “That really spearheaded my teaching career.”

His collection of Curious George items brings out another story from Landes.

At the age of three, Landes often visited a zoo in his hometown of Williston. His favorite exhibit was the monkey because each time he put his finger between the bars of the cage, the monkey would shake his hand.

“I was very impressed by that,” Landes said.

When Landes reached kindergarten, he found a love for the Curious George books. His family never forgot his interest in the curious little monkey and continued giving him items each holiday to add to his collection.

Now years later, the collection includes a drum, a wagon, a wooden car, a lunchbox, a mug, a package of magnets and various other toys.

Curious George books are not the only books Landes had an immense interest in. Landes has recently written a children’s book entitled, “Grandma’s False Teeth.”

Landes chuckles as he describes where he found the idea for the story.

As a little boy, Landes often woke up in the middle of the night and wandered around his house and into his yard.

One morning he woke up early and found his grandmother’s false teeth in a Mason glass jar in the sink. When his grandmother went downstairs for her teeth, she found them missing.

His grandmother, knowing that Landes was a curious boy, figured that he had run off with her teeth. After searching all through the house and the yard, she found Landes sitting on his tricycle in the backyard with the false teeth in his mouth.

His grandmother only laughed and told Landes that he had nice teeth.

The new assistant dean has not only written a book, he has also written a play.

After directing and acting in various productions throughout his career, Landes recently received a grant to write, produce and direct his own play.

He’s still waiting to see if his production, “Governor, Governor,” a western melodrama set in Ekalaka, Mont., will get published.

Next month, Landes and his son will travel to a screenwriter’s conference to submit scripts to some screenwriters.

“I’m looking forward to meeting successful screenwriters,” Landes said.

But teaching, reading and writing are not the only endeavors in Landes’ life.

Gazing over at a plaque entitled, “In Appreciation of Judge- Miss TEEN National Pageant, 1991,” Landes finds another story to tell.

“That’s another strange thing,” Landes said.

While Landes was teaching at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz., his friend nominated him to judge the Miss Teen pageant in St. Lous. His friend had judged the previous year and thought Landes might want to try it.

Sitting with famous celebrities, Landes judged the young girls as the show was aired on national television.

Landes jokes about the experience now. Actor Peter Billingsley from The Christmas Story took his spot the next year.

His career has not only expanded across several academic paths but also across a stretch of athletic miles.

Landes, an athlete himself throughout high school and college, decided after his cross country experience to continue coaching.

The trophies and ribbons strung across his desk show his successful career in coaching. A plaque for conference coach of the year in women’s cross country, pictures of teams he has coached, and a men’s 1995 academic All-American team plaque show Landes’s dedication to coaching.

With all the stories Landes shares, one story will remain the same.

As the new assistant dean, Landes will continue to show dedication to every question students ask of him.

“I don’t really want to change a lot of things that are being done,” Landes said. “But I would like to put more enthusiasm into them.”