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On Saturday, August 20, 2011, 20 UMD alumni from all over the United States gathered together on campus to celebrate their 60th class reunion. They met over breakfast and reminisced. Later in the day, they toured the 21st century campus.
Before the day's events, three alumni shared their stories about their youth, their careers, and their memories of UMD in 1951.
Norma (Bergerson) Nummela
Norma Nummela was born and raised in Duluth. At age six, her mother decided that it was time for her daughter to learn a musical instrument. “My mother originally wanted me to learn how to play the piano; however, because we did not own a piano, the violin was the next best choice. Who knew it would be my future?”
She graduated from Denfeld High School in 1947 and had played the violin for many musical events. During her four years at UMD, she played violin with the Duluth Symphony Orchestra. She graduated from UMD in 1951 with a major in music and education. Following graduation, she taught high school music for two years.
In 1952, she married Les Nummela and moved to several different places for her husband’s military career. They lived in Denver, Colo.; Washington, D.C.; and Baltimore, Md. where Nummela’s husband then pursued his graduate degree.
They eventually moved to Ohio where Nummela played violin with the Mansfield, Ohio symphony orchestra. Later, after moving to Iowa, she joined and played with the Cedar Rapids Symphony.
Beginning in 1967, Nummela joined the Omaha Symphony Orchestra where she was assigned to play in the first violin section. She played with the orchestra for over 44 years with top musical stars entertaining the community as guest artists with the symphony. Nummela also toured the Midwest with such notables as Tom Jones and Mitch Miller. In Omaha, she performed with Mel Torme, Elvis Presley, Mel Tillis, Tammy Wynette, the Judds, Barry Manilow, and many others.
Along with raising a family and playing the violin, Nummela owned and operated a retail store, the Candlelighter. The store offered an opportunity to experience new challenges in business, hiring salespeople, purchasing, displaying and buying merchandise at various gifts shows and markets.
When asked if she will retire from music, Nummela replies: “Not until the last note is played.”
Donald M. Cook
For the past ten years, Donald Cook has managed the Elizabeth Center for Cancer Detection in Los Angeles, Calif. The center has screened and diagnosed hundreds of thousands of people for early cancer detection.
“In 2009, we screened over 13,000 people with our mobile units. We have two 36’ mobile units that have the equipment for cancer screening, as well as the space for consulting people with the findings. It’s an incredible asset to the community, as well as for cancer research.”
Cook graduated from UMD in 1951 with a psychology degree. He then pursued his master of hospital administration at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. From 1964 to 1966, he was assistant professor at the George Washington University. He was then recruited and hired by Booz Allen & Hamilton whose headquarters are in Chicago, Illinois. Cook became vice president and partner where he headed all of the health consulting for the federal government in the eastern half of the United States and the Caribbean. “It was an amazing job. I would have paid to work with them,” he said.
Because Cook had received a unique degree at a time when hospital administration was just coming to fruition in academics, Cook was recognized as a rare entity in the industry. After eight years with Booz Allen & Hamilton, Cook was recruited by the South Miami Hospital. He chose to relocate and he became Chief Executive Officer for the next five years. When the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, Calif. knocked on his door, he left Miami and worked as the CEO for the Children’s Hospital in L.A.
Once again, however, a company looking for someone with his skills and expertise approached him; the Amherst Associates hired him as vice president from 1981-1983. Cook directed a number of major projects including the San Diego trauma needs assessment study and a strategic health planning study for Orange County.
In 1983, Arthur D. Little hired him as a consultant, which turned into the opportunity that became his current employment. In 1984, Cook began Donald Cook Associates. Through this company, he began the Elizabeth Center for Cancer Detection, a business that he has owned and operated for many years.
Norman “Chuck” Sundeen
In 1951, Sundeen (known to his friends as “Chuck”) graduated from UMD with a business and economics degree. His memories of playing on the first UMD hockey team created a lifelong love for higher education. “I wasn’t a great student in high school. But when I attended UMD, and played on the hockey team, I studied more and tried harder. Hockey turned me into a good student. I was never the science type, but I liked numbers. That’s why I didn’t mind the accounting classes at UMD. And, of course, the hockey was great.”
For four years, Sundeen played center, training on the local hills. “I sprinted them. It was a good workout. Now the players are faster and stronger. It could be the nutrition, maybe the equipment is better. But when I trained, it was running hills, and that was enough.”
Upon graduation, Sundeen was hired as an auditor by the United States Steel Company. For the next 40 years, he traveled around the country, as well as to Germany and Canada, whenever businesses needed an annual audit. During one of his business trips to Montreal, he met his future wife, who sadly passed away in recent years. He has since retired from the steel company, but he fondly recalls his career. “It was a good job. I’m glad that I went to college and secured my future.”
— written by Christiana Kapsner 8/23/2011
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