Dr. Myrna Haga: The Legacy Lives On


Alyssa Walker

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines


Advocate. Mentor. Kind. Empathetic. Spunky. Selfless. Beloved. These are just a few words to describe Dr. Myrna Haga, one of the most iconic UND Social Work faculty to grace the classrooms of Gillette Hall. Dr. Haga passed away peacefully on September 7, 2015 in Blairgowrie, Scotland, leaving behind a legacy that cannot be matched.

Dr. Haga taught for the University of North Dakota for 42 years and was known as the face of UND Social Work as almost every social worker in the state either took a class from Myrna or was impacted by her work in some way. Myrna taught and supervised thousands of students during her tenure at UND and was known for her caring demeanor, her sense of humor, her clinical knowledge and skills, and her mentorship.

During her established career, Myrna was the catalyst for Social Work in the state and also advocated for the fair treatment of all. As a leader within the social work department, she served as the BSSW Director for many years. After working tirelessly to establish an MSW program, she was hired as the first Graduate Director. She also partnered with the local community and the tribal communities. She helped to organize the first rural GLBT Conference entitled, “Out On the Prairie” and established the Turtle Mountain Community College Social Work program where BSSW degrees were offered onsite. Although her accolades are too many to list, she was not concerned about growing her vita; rather, the impact that she made on students was her most important priority.

“Her expertise was there for the students first,” said Myrna’s Social Work colleague and friend, Thomasine Heitkamp. “Students respected her because of her selfless commitment to students’ personal and professional development.”

In 2011, The Social Work department honored Myrna with the “Dr. Myrna Haga Pinning Ceremony” where BSSW graduates were presented with social work pins. She attended the ceremony on May 14, 2011 and was able to present the BSSW graduates with their social work pins which serves as a reminder of their time at UND. Although, the social work grads before 2011 did not receive social work pins at the time of their graduation, they were pinned with the lessons that Myrna taught them and continue to use her advice throughout their careers. Many alumni, hearing that Myrna was attending the pinning ceremony, shared stories about the impact she made on them both personally and professionally. The undergraduate Pinning Ceremony has been conducted each semester since 2011 in her honor.

Carol Weiler, MSW ’98, submitted that “Dr. Haga, as an instructor showed level headedness and steadfastness. When I find myself getting caught up in the moment or becoming flustered about some situation in my practice, I think about her calm and rational approach and try to imitate her. Dr. Haga is one of a kind and one of the best models for social workers.”

The lessons that she taught her students, colleagues, and friends will forever help to guide their lives and social work practice. She was a role model both inside and outside the classroom as she campaigned for the rights of all those in need of support and protection, including the many animals that she rescued.

In 2010, after four decades of teaching, research, and service, Myrna retired and moved to Scotland in 2011 to be close to her daughter, Kristin. She enjoyed exploring the country she loved with her daughter whom she loved even more.

The UND Social Work Department celebrated Dr. Haga’s life on October 3, 2015 at the Gorecki Alumni Center. Family, friends, former students, colleagues, and social workers from around the region attended the event which honored her memory and her legacy. She has touched the lives of many and will forever be the face of UND Social Work to all those she impacted.

In memory of Myrna, the Dr. Myrna Haga Scholarship Endowment has been created through the UND Alumni Association Foundation to establish undergraduate scholarships for Social Work students. We would like to honor Myrna by making this endowment whole and offering her scholarship next year. We hope that you will consider donating to her scholarship so that her legacy can continue to impact students. To donate to the Dr. Myrna Haga Scholarship Endowment, please visit the UND Alumni Association Foundation website and type in Dr. Myrna Haga Scholarship Endowment in the box below “I would like to give to.” You may also make a donation via mail by making your check, payable to UND Foundation with a note that requests your donation be allocated to the Dr. Myrna Haga Scholarship Endowment.