A legacy of cooperative culture – Riverton Community Housing celebrates 50th anniversary

Since 1945, Riverton Community Housing has served many thousands of students of the University of Minnesota and nearby colleges by making the pursuit of their educational goals more accessible. Here, co-op leadership celebrate their recent 50th anniversary.

It was a day of reminiscence, gratitude and hope for the future as Riverton Community Housing celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year at the vibrant Fair State Brewing Cooperative. The event brought together a diverse community of current and past members, board members, staff and sponsors who have all played pivotal roles in shaping the co-op’s journey.

Opening the event, Executive Director Mary Novak took a moment to acknowledge the unsung heroes of Riverton—the past and current housing board members. “These are the visionaries and the proponents of co-op culture,” she said. “Without these people, Riverton would be just housing.”

The event wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of sponsors. Bridgewater Bank and Colliers Mortgage were recognized as gold sponsors, with decades-long partnerships with Riverton, contributing not just financially, but as problem solvers and dealmakers. Silver sponsors, including UrbanWorks Architecture, USI Insurance Services, and Frana Construction, were recognized for their instrumental roles in designing, building, insuring and protecting co-ops. Their partnership has made every endeavor smoother and more effective.

From being the largest student housing co-op in North America to spearheading innovative solutions for housing insecurity, Riverton continues to lead the way.

The event also served as an introduction to Riverton’s newest legacy video, which showcased the co-op experience and provided a glimpse into the lives of past and present members. The video exemplified the transformative power of co-ops, highlighting Riverton’s profound impact on its community.

Dave Rugg, a distinguished figure in Riverton’s history, shared reflections on his extensive involvement. He described the challenges faced, notably the successful transition from the co-op model of the 1970s and 1980s to the current leasehold model. David also emphasized the collective effort behind Riverton’s success, expressing gratitude to fellow board members. He recounted a significant achievement—securing Section 8 housing vouchers for the first time. It was a momentous challenge that showcased Riverton’s capacity for innovation and adaptability. “Riverton today is just so cool,” Dave added. From being the largest student housing co-op in North America to spearheading innovative solutions for housing insecurity, Riverton continues to lead the way.

Next, Koushik Sampath, a present-day co-op member, recounted that his journey from a newcomer to Vice President of Chateau Student Housing Co-op was marked by his unwavering dedication to community building. He shared how being a part of the board allowed him to contribute meaningfully, creating events that brought the community together. Koushik’s enthusiasm for Riverton’s future was infectious, as he expressed hope that the torch of community-building would be carried forward by future generations.

As the event neared its conclusion, Jason Kenley, President of the Riverton Community Housing Nonprofit Board of Directors, spoke passionately about his 15-year journey with Riverton. Having witnessed the profound impact on communities, individuals and the larger society, he emphasized the potential for Riverton to continue its transformative work.

The 50th-anniversary celebration was a testament to Riverton’s enduring spirit of cooperation and community. As the event concluded, there was a palpable sense of optimism for the future. Cheers to 50 years, and here’s to many more!

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