Honoring leaders

Down-and-out kid transformed his life--and those of others By Louis Hoglund Rude...abrasive...uncooperative...argumentative...hard-headed...insufferable...a renegade...hard to manage...a maverick...a "rebel without a cause..." Fort...

Down-and-out kid transformed his life--and those of others

By Louis Hoglund

Rude...abrasive...uncooperative...argumentative...hard-headed...insufferable...a renegade...hard to manage...a maverick...a "rebel without a cause..."

Fortunately, for Perham, these qualities were unknown when the school board interviewed candidates for its new choir director back in 1992. Kevin Kosiak never would have been hired.


As those characteristics became evident--gradually or within the first month of his tenure here, depending on who you talk to--he probably should have been fired.

Instead, he's a Hall of Famer.

The Yellowjackets' notorious vocal and community theater director became the 44th inductee into the Perham "Hall of Fame."

Credentials of this distinction carried Saddam Hussein to his grave. For Kosiak, these qualities produced the finest choirs and "community musicals that are the envy of the region," said Jeff Tweeton, a colleague on the high school teaching staff, who served as Master of Ceremonies for the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership and Hall of Fame Awards Night April 26.

These same attributes, combined with a quick bat and some steroids, will send Barry Bonds to a different Hall of Fame, along with immeasurable financial wealth. But Bonds will never experience the riches that Kosiak has at Perham High School.

Few in the community knew Kosiak's survival story prior to that spring 2007 evening, in the Thumper Pond dining room in Ottertail.

Father Kosiak died when Kevin was four years old. His mother, an alcoholic, struggled with the family of eight kids.

As Perham activities director Fred Sailer recounted the Kevin Kosiak story, Kosiak bounced from foster home to foster home, plus a homeless shelter. By the time he entered high school, Kosiak hardly had a single friend.


"Kevin has always had a soft spot for the underprivileged kid...because Kevin was that kid," said Sailer in his introductory remarks. Sailer described Kosiak as a "genius."

"If a genius is somebody who surrounds himself with people who are smarter and more talented than he is," said Kosiak, "well then I guess I am a genius."

Supportive school administration, forgiving parents and an exceptional community are the main reasons for his success, said Kosiak.

"I'm intense, I'm emotional, I say things I don't mean and I regret...but through all of that, the community has been supportive," said Kosiak to the crowd of more than 100 that attended the Chamber awards night.

"I'm not exactly from the right side of the tracks. I'm not a squeaky-clean person," acknowledged Kosiak.

It was the performing arts that saved him.

"I couldn't do algebra....but I loved music, I loved theater," said Kosiak, who is not only choir director, but also guitar instructor at Prairie Wind Middle School and the high school.

Prior to coming to Perham in 1992, Kosiak held teaching positions in Mountain Lake, Minnesota and Springfield, Minnesota. A 1984 graduate of the University of North Dakota, he earned a bachelor's of music degree with a concentration in choral music. He is currently working on his master's degree in music education from the University of St. Thomas.


Kevin's musical theater directing credits with the Perham Community Musicals include: Oklahoma, Sound of Music, Wizard of Oz, Anything Goes, Guys and Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Hello Dolly, Man of LaMancha, and Beauty and the Beast.

He resigned from his position as community theater director two years ago.

"Though I'm not doing plays anymore, I opened the door to community theater in Perham. Please don't let that door shut," concluded Kosiak in his comments at the dinner.

Choirs under Kosiak's leadership have received numerous awards and honors:

--- Superior ratings at sub-section music contests each year since 1984. This year receiving perfect scores from all three judges.

--- Two performances at the MMEA Mid-winter clinic, in 1990 with the Springfield High School Choir, and in 2001 with the Prairie Wind Middle School 8th grade choir.

--- 1st place trophy at the All American Music Festival in St. Louis, Missouri in 1986.

--- 2nd place trophy at the All American Music Festival in Orlando, Florida in 1990.


--- A superior rating at the Bahamas Cruise Festival in 2001.

--- The honor choir at the NDSU Choral Festival in 2003.

--- Performance at Carnegie.

Perham-area native Sailer has had impact on countless lives

By Louis Hoglund

A guy who has made a difference in countless peoples' lives--from the star athlete to the academic scholar to the struggling kid from a single parent home--was honored for his leadership in a wide range of arenas.

"I've never met a man who is so admired by so many people," said Perham teacher and coach Robb Moser, introducing Fred Sailer at the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce awards night banquet.


Moser credited Sailer as an educator with a logical approach to lofty ideals; as an optimistic visionary with a practical, realistic approach to goals.

Sailer's leadership record is evident in Perham in the success of its athletic and arts programs; and his role with the construction of the two new school facilities. But more important is Sailer's impact on the thousands of students he has inspired.

Master of Ceremonies Jeff Tweeton took a humorous approach in reflecting on Sailer's leadership.

One of Sailer's favorite literary pieces is "Death of a Salesman." The lead character, Willy Loman, says "go up to Boston, go up to Providence... ask them about Willy Loman."

"Go up to Wolf Lake, go to Frazee... go to Luce... and ask them about Fred Sailer," said MC Tweeton, which drew laughs from the banquet audience of more than 100.

In his comments upon receiving the 2007 Perham Chamber leadership award, Sailer stressed the importance of public education--to give all kids, regardless of socio-economic background--a chance to succeed.

In his role as director of the Alternative Learning Center, Sailer works with students faced with poverty, family issues and other challenges.

"That's why I will always support public give kids the chance for a future," said Sailer. "You can't do it without public education."


Sailer proudly noted that the ALC students hosted a party, in his honor, prior to the leadership-awards banquet. The kids also presented him with a custom-made, computer generated card.

He stressed the importance of mentors for kids--and also acknowledged the many mentors who helped him along the way.

Sailer graduated from Perham High School in 1973, Fergus Falls Community College in 1975 and Bemidji State University in 1977.

He worked as Assistant Director of the Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and part time instructor and assistant football coach at Fergus Falls Community College for two years before returning to Perham in 1979.

While employed by the Perham-Dent School District he served as the community education director and was named the Minnesota Community Education Director of the Year in 1994. From 1989-1995 he served as the District's Representative during the construction of Heart of the Lakes Elementary, Prairie Wind Middle School and the remodel of Dent Elementary and Perham High School.

He has been the Activities Director in Perham for the past 11 years and also serves as the Director of the Perham Area Learning Center. As activities director, Sailer said he has always strived to treat arts, such as music and theater, with equal emphasis as extra-curricular athletics.

Fred and his wife Sue have two children; Carolyn (25) who is a construction manager for Mortenson Construction based out of Minneapolis and Mark (21) who is a Junior at Bemidji Sate and majoring in Industrial Technology.

"The goal of parents is to work themselves out of a job, and it looks like we're accomplishing that," said Sailer at the banquet.

Sailer's wife Sue is employed by Perham Memorial Hospital and Home as a medical social worker.

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