Cooperative leader and Basin Electric's 6th employee dies at 96

Robert Feragan, Basin Electric Cornerstone Award winner, former manager of East River Electric Power Cooperative, former Rural Electrification Administrator, and Basin Electric's sixth employee, has died at 96. He and his wife, Madlin Ann Feragen, spoke often of reaching the end of their journey together. Madlin, age 93, died on Nov. 19 at midday, and Robert died in the early morning hours of Nov. 20.

Robert Feragen's introduction to cooperatives began in South Dakota in 1961 at East River Electric as the director of information. He then came to work at Basin Electric for eight years, first as director of information and later as assistant to the general manager. One of his first assignments was to help make a movie about Basin Electric called The Prairie is our Garden to bring the cooperative into the consciousness of North Dakota and the Great Plains.

He served as the administrator of the Rural Electrification Administration in the Department of Agriculture for Pres. Jimmy Carter starting in 1978. During that time he approved Basin Electric’s loan application for the Antelope Valley Station.

man being sworn in
Robert Feragen (left) being sworn in as administrator of the Rural Electrification Administration in 1978.

He returned in 1981 to East River Electric, first as manager of the administrative services division and then as general manager, and retired in 1990.

Throughout his career serving electric cooperatives, Feragen received numerous awards of recognition including the James D. Donovan personal achievement award from the American Public Power Association, the Mid-West Electric Consumers Association Fred G. Simonton Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the National Food and Energy Council, the Virgil T. Hanlon Award for “outstanding service to East River Electric Power Cooperative,” the East River Eminent Service Award, and Basin Electric's Cornerstone Award in 2008, the cooperative's highest award. It honors an individual whose leadership and outstanding service to electric cooperatives has been a "cornerstone" for Basin Electric, its member systems, and the rural Americans they serve.

Feragen was not able to attend the 2008 Basin Electric Annual Meeting where he was honored with the Cornerstone Award. A letter from Feragen was read, and a video (below) was played.

Here is an excerpt from the letter:

"My years at Basin were among the most vital to my own professional growth and to my commitment to consumer-owned electric utilities. ... I feel greatly blessed that employment at Basin brought me together with Jim Grahl. Basin was at the core of my life during that early decade of its existence and about which I have many cherished memories."