Dakota Datebook

Hans Aaker

Monday, October 28, 2013


At the turn of the 19th century, Hans Aaker was Moorhead’s leading prohibitionist, although he is best remembered for founding Aaker’s Business College in Fargo. A man of many endeavors, Aaker also served nearly a decade as Concordia College president before running for mayor of Moorhead, hoping to clean up “the Wickedest City in the World.” Yesterday marked the 111th anniversary of his founding of the Aaker’s Business College, which continues to operate in Fargo and Bismarck as a merged entity with Rasmussen College of St. Paul.

Aaker was born to a Norwegian farm family near Rideway, Iowa, in 1862. He initially studied ministry at Luther College, but eventually decided to pursue a degree in business. After graduating from Valparaiso University in 1883, he took charge of the commercial department of the Wilmar Seminary school in Wilmar, Minnesota.

In 1885, he began his first business venture by moving to Twin Valley, Minnesota, opening a general store with his older brother. Although successful, he left the store to his brother’s care and moved to Moorhead in 1892 to take charge of the commercial department at the newly-opened Concordia College. The following year, he became the school’s second president, taking over from Ingebrikt Grose. As in all matters of education, “…Aaker emphasized ‘practical’ courses, such as accounting and business.” In fact, he even went so far as to suggest that the college “…set aside the broad range of classical studies [that the school was centered on] in favor of a curriculum devoted solely…” to commercial courses. He was unsuccessful, however, as several of the school’s professors championed the school’s original vision of Christian and classical education. The disagreement created a lasting divide between President Aaker and his professors.

In 1900, he was elected Moorhead’s mayor on the prohibition ticket. Residents hoped Aaker would be able to clean up the city, but the influence of the town’s saloons was immense, and the new mayor narrowly escaped an assassination attempt shortly after his election. After being told that his mayoral aspirations were interfering with his presidential duties at the college, Aaker and his wife opened Aakers Business College in 1902. Within three months, the school had over a hundred students. In 2007, 105 years after its founding, the school merged with Rasmussen College.


Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job



Various Authors. 1909 History of the Red River Valley, Past and Present, Vol. II: pp. 973-974. C. F. Cooper & Company: Chicago, IL.







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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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