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Charles L. (Les) Wagner

Charles L. (Les) Wagner, 1949, Businessman, Member of the House Corporation

For SAEs in the late 1960's through early 1970's, Les was the face of the house corporation. We often saw him in his formal capacity as the representative of the house corporation most often when rent was due or whenthere were problems with the chapter house. As a representative of the house corporation, he was our landlord and somewhat of an authority figure. But when you got to know Les, you discovered he was warm and genuine and was truly interested in the SAEs and their welfare. Les was born January 11, 1926 to Ray and Grace Shaver but was raised from age eleven by his adoptive parents Gil and Clare Wagner. He graduated from Fargo High School in 1943 before enlisting in the U.S. Army at the age of 17. He served as a rifleman and photographer in Europe and was honorably discharged in June, 1946.


After the war he enrolled at NDSU receiving a B.S. degree in mathematics in 1949. Les became a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon upon enrolling at NDSU. Les and his wife Beatrice (Bonnie) Bugbee were married on June 14, 1950 in Fargo, ND. Les worked in many jobs throughout his career before becoming Operating Branch Office Manager and later as an Independent Agent for Crown Life Insurance from 1959-1995. Over the years, he received many awards and recognitions including eleven National Quality Awards, twice selected as Man of the Year by the Fargo Moorhead Life Underwriters Association, and he served as director and secretary of the FM Association. He also received a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for his participation in the North Dakota Veterans History Project. 


One of Les’s many passions was music. He played in the Elks and American Legion bands, the Lake Agassiz Concert Band, and many dance bands. Les was also involved in his church, the Cosmopolitan Service Club, Positive Thinkers Club, and as a proud WWII Veteran in various veterans' organizations. In addition to his interest in music, Les enjoyed golfing, bowling, stamp collecting, reading, fishing, travelling, and watching sports on television. Not among the least of his community involvement was serving on the ND Beta House Corporation from 1959-1972. That for so long Les had shouldered the responsibilities of the house corporation was in no small part due to the debt he felt towards the fraternity when he returned to college after World War II.


As his wife Bonnie remarked about her husband’s loyalty to the fraternity: “He said many times how important the SAE House was when he went back to college after he returned home from military service. It became his family of brothers to support and encourage him.” Not only did Les view his service on the house corporation as a duty, but he also enjoyed the fellowship of the brothers, as Bonnie noted: “Les enjoyed being a part of SAE while in college, and his years after college meeting with the students at the fraternity house. We enjoyed being at the house for meals and parties in our early married years.” Les and Bonnie have three children; Bard (Dwayne) Knutsen, Montevideo, MN, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Cindy, ShowLow, AZ, a graduate of Mankato State University, and Patti, Detroit Lakes, MN, a graduate of Moorhead Area Technical College. Les passed away in November of 2010 and is being honored posthumously for many years of service to the SAE House Corporation.

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