Home Book editor Friesen one of the three recipients of the Bethel Distinguished Achievement

Friesen one of the three recipients of the Bethel Distinguished Achievement


Editor’s Note: This is the first of three stories highlighting the recipients of the 2021 Bethel College Award of Excellence. Upcoming in the series are profiles of Jennifer Scott Koontz, MD, of Newton and Joel Gaeddert of North Newton.

Steve Friesen rarely met a museum he didn’t like or vice versa.

Friesen, of Littleton, Colorado, will receive the 2021 Bethel College Award of Excellence, which recognizes character and citizenship, achievement in a chosen profession or vocation, and work for the benefit of humanity.

The award will be presented at the Alumni Banquet, which has been moved to the Fall Festival weekend, and will take place this year on October 3.

Friesen was born in Lawrence, raised in Buhler, and graduated from Bethel in 1975 with a BA in History and Social Sciences. He went on to obtain an MA in American Popular Culture from the Cooperstown Graduate Program at the State University of New York at Oneonta.

He returned to his native south-central Kansas as director of Bethel’s Kauffman Museum, 1976-77, then spent a year with the Wichita Public Schools Museums Programs Office, 1977-78, before moving to leading educational programs at the Littleton Historical Museum in the Denver area for the next four years.

After two years in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as a service worker with the Mennonite Central Committee, Friesen moved to Lancaster, Pa., To be the director of House Hans Herr from 1719 until 1990.

He then returned to Colorado as museum superintendent for the town of Greeley, and later became director of the Molly Brown House in Denver.

In 1995, Friesen took over as director of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in Golden, Colorado, from which he retired in 2017 after serving for 22 years.

In 2018, he was inducted into the Jefferson County (Colombia) Hall of Fame.

After retiring from the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, Friesen joined forces with his wife, Monta Lee Dakin, to create Friesen-Dakin Museum Consulting, a part-time business.

The two have a combined total of 80 years in the museum profession (Dakin worked at Mount Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington; the Smithsonian; Strawbery Banke in New Hampshire; Gadsby’s Tavern in Virginia; Colorado Preservation, Inc .; and most recently as Executive Director of the Mountain-Plains Museums Association).

Friesen and Dakin provided consulting services to Aspen Historical Society, Evergreen Mountain Area Historical Society, Hastings Museum, Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum, and The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, in Nashville, Tenn.

Friesen’s first book, A Modest Mennonite Home (Good Books, 1990), dealt with the 1719 Hans Herr House in Lancaster County as well as German life in Pennsylvania.

His second book, Buffalo Bill: Scout, Showman, Visionary (City and County of Denver, 2010), was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award and received the 2011 Best Museum Publication from the Mountain-Plains Museums Association.

Lakota Performers in Europe: Their Culture and What They Left Behind (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017) won a Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and Best Illustrated History 2017 from the Western History Association, and was a finalist for the Western Writers of America Spur Award.

Friesen has written chapters for several books on museum management and has written numerous historical articles and book reviews for academic and popular publications. In 2021, he began writing a regular column for True West magazine. He is an active member of Western Writers of America.

Friesen and Dakin are the parents of two children (including Bethel graduate Elizabeth Friesen) and have a granddaughter.

In addition to writing and reading, Friesen enjoys traveling and cooking, which, combined with his years of studying Buffalo Bill, culminated in his latest book in progress, Galloping Gourmet: Eating and Drinking with Buffalo Bill.

Friesen is a member of the Beloved Community Mennonite Church in Denver and continues her long-standing relationship with Bethel College as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Kauffman Museum.


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