"He told the students he hoped to be sitting out where they were next year when he graduated. The (MSU) president didn't even know he was a student at the time."
Searle retired from the Legislature after one term as Speaker to give more attention to a multitude of volunteer efforts he was involved in, including in education, agriculture and the environment.
Later in life, Searle turned away from the Republican party he had long served, saying: "My party has abandoned me."
In 2010 Searle was among a group of Republican former lawmakers who endorsed Independence Party candidate for governor Tom Horner, rather than the Republican-endorsed candidate, Tom Emmer. The state Republican party took action against those in the group, preventing them from serving as delegates to the state or national party conventions for two years.
Searle’s first wife, Jane, was a librarian and volunteer who assisted children with reading disabilities. She died in 2000. They had two sons and a daughter, who survive him.
Searle married Ruth Bartlett in 2001.
Searle's funeral is Friday in Owatonna. Parker Kohl & McRaith Funeral Home in Waseca is handling arrangements.