Will Antell

Class of '59

Dr. Will Antell, a champion of American Indian education policies and a 1959 Bemidji State University graduate, was awarded with the Human Rights Award on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, from the Stillwater Human Rights Commission. Minnesota governor Tim Walz also declared July 18, 2023, Dr. Will Antell Day in the state of Minnesota.

The award is given annually to recognize those in the city who work to build an environment that promotes fair and equal treatment for everyone. Antell, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, served Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter on the National Advisory Council on Indian Education; was a founder and president of the National Indian Education Association; served as assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Education for nine years; served on the Minnesota State Board of Trustees from 2000-05; and served on the Alumni & Foundation’s board of directors for six years. He also received Bemidji State’s Outstanding Alumni Award in 1984.

Antell is widely regarded as an authority on Indian education and desegregation, and he has helped guide policy for American Indian education at the state and federal levels. In 1972, he helped write the landmark Indian Education Act, which allowed American Indians to decide their own education for the first time. He is also a former teacher, coach and football referee in Stillwater.

“Will Antell has dedicated his life to breaking down barriers and fighting to improve the lives of marginalized people,” BSU President John L. Hoffman said. “It would be impossible to sum up his remarkable life and achievements in a few short words. He has championed the expansion of educational opportunities at all levels, from his career as a middle school coach and athletic director to his work founding doctoral programs in American Indian leadership. The efforts we are making at Bemidji State University toward equity, inclusion and holistic student success are only possible because of the foundational work done by Will Antell. I’m deeply appreciative of all that Will has done and for welcoming me into the Beaver community.”

“To read the extensive list of Will’s positions, accomplishments, connections and legislative actions is absolutely astounding,” said Ann Wolff, who nominated Antell for the Human Rights Award. “On a deeper level, it’s his strength of character, strong Native values and hard work for human rights that I most admire.”