The Strange Saga of Clarence Mjork

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by Pat Hessman

He may not hold the legendary status of Champ Bobcat, but the scraggly scamp dubbed Clarence Mjork (pronounced mee-york) is one MSU icon you should know about. You’re probably wondering, just how did this strange hobo become an enduring MSU icon?

For starters, he never attended MSU. In fact, he wasn’t a real person. The native of fictional town Endgate, Montana hails from a 1933 prank orchestrated by the Montanan, the college’s now-defunct yearbook, in which editor Dave Rivenes, Chris Schlechten and Bill Rider created an entirely fictitious yearbook, and Mr. Mjork (played by Rider) took center stage. All throughout the yearbook, Clarence was inserted into photographs of teams and clubs holding woman on his laps, showing off a giant fish, and even hanging from a lamp. He was ascribed membership to over 25 clubs, held the adviser position for all four class levels, and worked six positions at the Exponent alone. One page even claimed there were eight individuals at MSU named Clarence Mjork who all hailed from Endgate but were completely unrelated despite their identical appearances.

Keep in mind, this yearbook was created about seventy years before Photoshop became commonplace. Rivenes worked closely with Schlechten to carefully plan photographs and splice negatives to insert Clarence into so many pictures. Making the feat even more impressive was that the trio created the parodic edition of the yearbook in secret while Rivenes oversaw the rest of the yearbook staff’s creation of a standard yearbook that ultimately went unpublished.  By the time the prank came to light, university president Alfred Atkinson realized it would be too time consuming and expensive to recall the yearbooks and print the legitimate edition, and thus, Clarence Mjork’s Montanan became the official yearbook of 1933.

ppb4fac480Orchestrator of the Mjork prank, Dave Rivenes, found success in a broadcasting career after college.

Nearly eighty years after this prank, Mjork still makes the occasional MSU appearance. In 2003, a man dressed as Mjork was named marshal of the Homecoming parade. He reappeared in the MSU Exponent on the cover of its 2010 April Fools edition, and periodically appeared on a video segment dubbed “Clarence Mjork’s Apocrypha.”

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Mjork shares his opinions on gingers.

Clarence Mjork may not be the best-known icon of MSU, but his humorous legacy will undoubtedly persist for years to come. He remains a great reminder that one should never take themselves too seriously, especially at college. Even if the Montanan published its last edition in 1991, Mjork seems to keep finding ways to return time and time again.

Major Profile: Graphic Design

by Katie Rodriguez

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As a graphic design student at Montana State University, I have the privilege to work hard and play hard in this beautiful place we call Montana. The vast outdoors are great for obtaining natural, free inspiration. The beauty and outdoor opportunity of Montana have really had an impact on my design style. With the strong community-feeling of Bozeman, you are able to see locally produced designs everywhere you go, from the morning coffee shop menu to farmer’s market products, local breweries, and strolling through Main Street’s local shops.

The graphic design program covers numerous periods of art history, and you will work in a variety of media and materials throughout the four-year program. As a graphic design student, you will have access to the School of Art’s vintage letterpresses, computer lab, studios, and other facilities. You can also expect to take basic and advanced course in topics like design principles, motion graphics, sculpture, and illustration.

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In a four-year program, friendships are created during late night mounting jobs, last minute printing problems, and five-hour computer classes. Some of my closest college friends I have were made in class. The creativity and originality of every student creates a fun, competitive atmosphere. Every year, senior students and professors visit a nearby city to see top design firms, advertising agencies, and in-house design departments. This year we visited the Boulder/Denver, Colorado area. It was a definite highlight of my senior year and some great memories were made.

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My advice for a design student at MSU: don’t have a specific style. Explore and create as many directions, possibilities and techniques as possible. Even though this can be frustrating in the short term–few masterpieces will be developed–the freedom to be able to utilize a whole array of strategies will be incredibly helpful as a professional. While in school, I don’t think it’s helpful to use one’s time to develop an original formal language; this can all be done later.

There are so many classes available for graphic design majors to take. Ceramics, letterpress, metalsmithing, sculpting, printmaking, and independent study opportunities are all great options.

Visit the Graphic Design major info page to learn more.

Interested in interning for design at Outside Media Group? See our internships page for more details.