Keith Fernsler: Inspiring educator and advocate mourned in Dickinson
May 17—DICKINSON — The City of Dickinson is mourning the loss of Keith Fernsler, a remarkable individual whose unwavering dedication to improving education, healthcare and community services earned him the status of a highly respected local voice for reason. Fernsler, a retired sociology professor Emeritus at Dickinson State University, passed away on Tuesday, May 16 at the age of 78, leaving behind a legacy and indelible mark in inspiring and uplifting the community.
Born in Mishawaka, Indiana, Fernsler's passion for knowledge led him to graduate from Mishawaka High School before pursuing higher education at the University of Montana. Although Indiana was always his hometown, it was in Dickinson where Fernsler truly felt at home, becoming an invaluable pillar of the community through his tireless commitment to public engagement and philanthropy.
Fernsler's involvement in the Dickinson community was nothing short of extraordinary, according to many who knew him. A man of faith, he dedicated countless Sundays to First Congregational Church-UCC, where he shared his melodic voice as a choir member and served on the church council. His active participation extended far beyond the church walls, as he lent his time and expertise to organizations such as North Dakota United and the Dickinson Area Library Foundation Board, among others — placing his Christian faith to practice. Those who knew him best say that there seemed no endeavor in Dickinson that Fernsler did not contribute to, earning him widespread admiration and respect among his peers.
However, Fernsler's dedication extended beyond civic engagement. As the former Chairman of the Urban Forestry Committee for the City of Dickinson, he was known as an avid outdoor enthusiast. He chronicled his driving all the roadways, mile-by-mile, of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. His love for nature was intricately woven into his advocacy efforts, particularly during his campaign as a District 37 Democratic candidate in 2018.
Fueled by his unwavering commitment to his community, Fernsler tirelessly fought for increased school funding and the accessibility and affordability of healthcare in North Dakota. His passion for the well-being of the community led him to advocate for the expansion of services centered on tackling local addiction, mental health and behavioral service issues in the Dickinson area.
Keith Fernsler's unwavering dedication to improving education, healthcare and community services leaves an indelible mark on the city of Dickinson and his tireless advocacy, community involvement and commitment to bridging political divides served as a testament to the power of one individual's impact. As the community mourns the loss of its beloved educator, community advocate and voice of reason, many are reminded of the profound difference that Fernsler made during his time on earth.
"We mourn the loss of Keith, a remarkable individual whose presence and contributions touched the hearts and minds of many. We at The Dickinson Press had the privilege of a longstanding relationship with Keith, engaging in countless discussions that enriched our perspectives," James B. Miller, Jr., Editor of The Dickinson Press, said. "We held him in high regard, appreciating his dedication to public engagement and philanthropy. The void left by his passing will be deeply felt as we reflect on the cherished memories and the sorely missed prospects of his monthly emails, calls or letters. Keith's legacy will continue to inspire us, reminding us of the profound impact one person can make in their community."