|BRIDGE||The Magazine for UMD Alumni and Friends|
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The University of Minnesota Duluth
BRIDGE - Summer 2010, Volume 28, #1
UMD Alumni and Friends Show Their Support
Hundreds of donors have a commitment and vision for a better University of Minnesota Duluth, and their contributions make a lasting impact. These gifts support the changing needs of faculty, staff, students, and programs, and they reflect the vision and values of our donors. Here are a few of their stories.
“Alpha Nu has been awarding scholarships since 1964,” said Tom Kraus, one of the founding members of the fraternity. “Mike Dean, now a member of the alumni board, got one of the first scholarships. It was only $100, which doesn’t seem like much, but it paid the tuition for an entire quarter.”
Alpha Nu Omega is the only UMD social fraternity to have survived for 50 years. The many contributions of the alumni members during these years have kept the traditions and activities of the fraternity alive.
Back in 1959, eight people had a vision. In early September, just after the start of fall quarter, eight upperclassmen petitioned the UMD Administration to start a fourth social fraternity on the campus. Founders Tom Kraus, Gary Holzer, Jack Eckholm, Jerry Maeckelbergh, Bob Pike, Lynn Jamison, Bill Peterson, and Richard Pease had all participated in student activities during their college life at UMD, serving in student government, as members of campus organizations, and in the ROTC. They felt strongly that UMD needed a fraternity focused on service to UMD and the Duluth community.
As these founders, and others after them, graduated and embarked on their professional careers, Alpha Nu Omega stayed in their thoughts. They founded the first named scholarship in 1966 following the death of Alpha Nu alumnus, John L. Banks III, in Vietnam. “It made us think about the importance of the scholarships, and we became more dedicated to helping students,” Kraus said.
Over the years the Alpha Nu Omega Alumni Association members established the Daryl B. Knodt Memorial Scholarship, named for an active member of Alpha Nu Omega, and the Warren F. Orrick Memorial Scholarship, named for Warren “Butch” Orrick. Upon his death in 1990, Butch’s estate provided funds for the scholarship. Alpha Nu members have continued to contribute to an endowed fund for scholarship support. Annually since 1964, the Alpha Nu Omega Alumni Association has granted scholarships to the active chapter members selected on the basis of academic success, fraternity participation (social and campus/community service), and need. Over $50,000 was awarded in their first 45 years, and in 2008 the Alpha Nu Omega Alumni Association donated $50,000 to UMD to establish a scholarship through the Reaching Higher Scholarship Initiative.
In September 2009, Alpha Nu Omega celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gathering in Duluth. “It’s amazing to see all these guys come back,” said Kraus. “I’m proud of what we accomplished. We’ve stayed active, and we’re committed to helping UMD students.”
Keith Loveland (’71), who grew up in Grand Rapids, Minn. remembers seeing UMD for the first time, on a high school trip with the declamation and debate team. “It was a campus on a hill that was stunningly beautiful,” he said. “It had the lake below it and wooded hills behind it. There were new dorms and new buildings.” It wasn’t long after his first visit that Loveland enrolled and began his life-long relationship with UMD.
Loveland started in the pre-law program. He did well in his classes, but simply doing well wasn’t enough. “I went home for the summer between my freshman and sophomore year and worked at the Blandin Paper Mill,” he said. He discussed current events that summer, especially topics like the war in Southeast Asia and whether 18-year-olds should vote. “I was unable to get my points across to others, and it upset me,” he said. “I wanted to learn how to think more clearly and deeply, logically, and rationally.”
That fall, Loveland set up a meeting with his advisor, Harry Lease. That meeting became a turning point in Loveland’s life. “I explained to Dr. Lease that something was missing,” he said. “I could memorize things in history class and pass the tests but I wanted to know how to think, not what to memorize. Dr. Lease sent me down the hall to the philosophy department.”
Loveland then began studying with Philosophy Department Head Henry Ehlers and Professors David “Doc” Mayo and Robert Evans. “I learned to listen carefully to arguments, paying attention to assumptions embedded within the discourse and then responding clearly and honestly. The philosophy courses were satisfying,” he said. “Learning about the world stokes a fire in me.”
Loveland was involved in student government and campus life. “In the 1960s, students were encouraged to think through economic, social, and political issues,” he said. Besides the hot topics of the war in Vietnam, and voting issues, students were debating the rights of women and how to assist minorities and disadvantaged people.
Loveland left UMD to earn a law degree from the William Mitchell College of Law. He has spent his career active in the financial services and securities industry as an attorney, author, and teacher. He chaired an investment committee for a mutual fund complex and served as the CEO of a securities broker-dealer. He married Cynthia Stevens, who has spent much of her time working on social justice causes.
“At many points in your life you find yourself stopping to reflect: when you have a milestone birthday, when you graduate from college, at the birth of a child,” he said. “It is a time to take stock and think about what you want to do. Recently Cynthia and I decided to change our estate plans. What loomed most significant to us was the importance of a liberal arts education. It shapes a person’s life and gives them happiness and success. It’s important that the nation has an educated citizenry to think critically and contribute to a democracy.” The Lovelands chose the UMD philosophy department to receive a planned gift. “The UMD philosophy department is near and dear to us,” Loveland said. “It is where we want to leave our legacy.”
Sometimes giving is more than a personal decision; it’s a family decision. When Jim and Kathy Vizanko set up an endowment fund at UMD’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE), they included their son, Brent, not only in the scholarship’s name but also in the process. Thus the Jim, Kathy, and Brent Vizanko Family Scholarship is truly a family scholarship.
The Vizankos’ scholarship will help support students who are studying finance or are financial markets program participants. “We are extremely grateful to Jim, Kathy, and Brent Vizanko for their long-term vision and commitment to education. Their scholarship will benefit students for years to come,” said Kjell R. Knudsen, dean of the Labovitz School of Business and Economics.
The Vizanko family knows the value of education. Jim earned his undergraduate degree from UMD in mathematics in 1975. While attending UMD, Jim received a scholarship and knows the difference it made. In 1977, he began working for Minnesota Power, now Allete, as an assistant forecasting and economics analyst. While he rose through the ranks, Jim also earned his MBA from UMD. Jim’s final position at Allete was as its chief financial officer.
In 2006, Jim retired from Allete and joined LSBE as an instructor of finance. Jim saw how tough it is financially for some students. “It’s becoming harder for parents to help their kids in college,” Jim said. And even though many students hold part-time or even full-time jobs, many still struggle. Jim and Kathy, both Duluth natives, decided to do something that would assist UMD students and began to set up a scholarship at LSBE. It was then that they brought their son into the process.
Brent, who is 15 years old, was pleased to be included. But this wasn’t his first lesson in philanthropy from his parents. “I’ve always seen my parents giving a lot,” Brent said. Starting when Brent was 10, the Vizankos adopted a family each year during the holidays through the Salvation Army. Kathy and Brent would go out shopping for their adopted family. “I wanted Brent to see that giving was not just writing a check, it involved doing something,” Kathy said.
Brent obviously took the lesson to heart. Brent is a member of the Key Club at Central High School, where he is a student. Each member is required to volunteer a minimum of 30 hours. Last fall Brent, along with other Key Club members, spent a night in cardboard boxes as a way of raising money and awareness for youth who are homeless. During the holidays, the club participated in a toy drive and wrapped presents. Brent likes that he is doing good and having fun doing it. Kathy points out that Brent is continuing on a family heritage. Her father was extremely civic minded and volunteered extensively.
The Vizanko family agrees on so many things. Both Jim and Brent nod when Kathy points out, “We’ve been very fortunate.” They know that education can change a person’s life and that their scholarship will help ease the financial burden of more than one LSBE student. They like reflecting on the fact that their scholarship will positively impact students’ lives for years to come. “It’s nice to think that this will go on,” Jim said.
The first scholarship will be awarded for the fall 2011. “We’re really looking forward to meeting the winner,” Kathy said. The Vizankos will attend the award dinner – together, of course.
Merle L. Bryant (’64) spent her life educating. Whether she was teaching young children in an elementary school setting or young adults pursuing their teaching degrees in elementary education, Bryant guided each of them with purpose and passion. So it is little wonder that upon her death, Bryant left a legacy that established the UMD Merle L. Bryant Elementary Education Fund to benefit the UMD College of Education and Human Service Professions.
Bryant’s gift will be used to fund initiatives and further the development of UMD’s Elementary Education Program. Paul Deputy, dean of the College of Education and Human Service Professions, is deeply grateful to Merle Bryant. “Her gift will allow us to extend our resources and help our elementary education students to develop their full potential as teachers,” he said. “We will join her in building the future by using the funds well.”
Bryant earned her graduate degree in elementary education from UMD. After teaching for a number of years in elementary schools in northern Minnesota, she worked at the University Laboratory School in Duluth as an instructor and supervisor of student teachers. When the University Laboratory School closed, Bryant was appointed to the faculty of UMD’s Elementary Education Program, an honor that acknowledged her experience and devotion to education.
Verna Norha, who taught with Bryant at the University Laboratory School and later at UMD, remembered her as “a very dedicated person,” adding that it was “a privilege to work with her.” Vernon L. Simula, UMD faculty emeritus, recalled Bryant as “encouraging and nurturing” with her students and as someone who always had a “positive outlook.” Frank Guldbrandsen from UMD’s education department remembered Bryant as “an absolute ray of sunshine” who maintained an open door policy. “She was very student-oriented, and they gravitated towards her because of that,” he said.
Many honors and awards were presented to Bryant for her work as an educator. She was a member of Pi Lambda Theta and Delta Kappa Gamma, both honor societies for educators. Bryant held many offices in professional organizations including extensive work in the local and state levels of the MEA and Delta Kappa Gamma. She was appointed to and chairperson of many UMD administrative and college of education committees over her tenure. She had many speaking engagements and was a published journal author.
Bryant traveled extensively both abroad and throughout the United States. A lifelong learner, she studied in Europe in the 1950s and did research in children’s literature in England in 1974. She served as a docent for special groups at Glensheen, the historic Congdon mansion in Duluth.
Bryant was born in the small town of Tenstrike, Minn. and graduated from Bemidji High School as a salutatorian. After receiving her undergraduate degree in elementary education from Bemidji State College in 1946, she taught in a rural school, Bass Lake School in Bemidji. She served as an elementary teacher at Washington School in Thief River Falls, Whittier School in Austin, and Congdon Park School in Duluth. Bryant passed away in 2008 at the age of 93.
Through graduate school, to a professional career at Cargill and then the Tennant Corporation, chemist Norm Gill (’59), hasn’t forgotten what it was like to be a student at UMD.
Gill commuted from his Duluth home. He majored in chemistry and studied with some of UMD’s greatest professors, James C. “Charlie” Nichol, Edward Cowles, and Moses Passer. “Charlie Nichol taught physical chemistry, the hardest classes I ever had.”
Gill ran cross country in high school but at UMD he had so many labs in fall, he waited until spring and went out for track. In his junior year, he placed second in the two-mile race in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. “That year, it was so cold in Duluth that by the time we went to the conference meets, we had never practiced outside once,” Gill said. “We had to do our practice runs in the halls.”
“I had a strict budget. I bought used books and sometimes I used the textbooks in the library,” he said. “UMD was affordable and yet the education was at the top. When I got to graduate school, I had already taken many of the advanced courses at UMD.” Nothing stopped Gill. “I hitchhiked to Minneapolis for my graduate school interview. After it was over, I didn’t have money to stay overnight, so I hitchhiked back to Duluth.”
Gill had almost finished his chemistry master’s degree at the UM-Twin Cities when a friend presented him with an opportunity. Cargill was hiring chemists. “I applied so I could practice my job interview skills,” Gill said. He was offered the position. “I still had a couple of months to go before I could get my degree but I was so sick of being poor, I took it.” Gill finished his degree later in 1964 by taking night classes.
Gill was in graduate school when he met Joan Henry, a school teacher from Iowa. They met at a wedding, and it wasn’t long before they married. “I knew right away that she was the one,” said Gill. “Besides being really nice, Joan had a car.”
Cargill, the international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, and industrial products, presented Gill with some exciting challenges. As a research and development chemist, he developed products and took them from their “very inception right through their use by the public,” Gill said. “I worked with technical services, mass production, and marketing.” His name was listed on the safety and handling instruction sheets of all of his products. Norm’s wife Joan remembers a few late and not-so-late calls. “Norm’s phone numbers were listed on those sheets, and he kept them filed at home. One day, Norm was on his way home when someone called. The man said he had a container that was bulging and getting bigger. I tried to calm him down, and I assured him Norm would call him back very soon,” she said. And Norm did.
“Cargill had a family atmosphere,” Gill said. “Cargill MacMillan, the owner, would go through the plant and stop to talk to people about what they were working on.”
After 16 years at Cargill, Gill took on a new challenge. He took a position in R&D at the Tennant Corporation, a manufacturer of industrial cleaning solutions as well as floor coatings. He stayed with Tennant for 21 years. It was long enough to see many changes in the industrial world.
Norm and Joan Gill have established a scholarship for a chemistry student at UMD who is also on the track team. “Those are the things I care about. I remember being in track at UMD, and I had great chemistry teachers there. I want to support those things,” he said. “College is so expensive now, and I remember what it was like to need money.”
A partnership between UMD and a Duluth health care organization has launched a group of modern-day voyageurs – graduate students in music – into Northland classrooms to provide an entertaining theatrical production with a message about healthy living.
For the second year, the UMD Voyageurs became the “Pirates of the Carrot Bean,” praising the merits of eating, not only carrots and beans, but other nutritional foods, plus exercise and hygiene. They’ve presented the 45-minute show to more than 15,000 students in Duluth and surrounding communities. The program is presented to students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Dr. Nancy Beery, a SMDC Health System pediatrician, was a champion of the Voyageurs program from the beginning. Beery knows first hand about the rise in health issues, obesity and inadequate hygiene, that have affected children across the U.S. She developed and manages a comprehensive Pediatric Weight Management program at SMDC and has given numerous talks in the community concerning childhood obesity and its negative effects on child growth and development as well as promoting family lifestyle changes.
Beery saw the Voyageurs program as a fun and positive approach toward health education. “We struggle in our practices to get health messages across to kids and their parents,” Beery said. “The Voyageurs go the next step; they bring the message to teachers and entire classrooms. The message is stronger when everyone hears it.”
Another SMDC pediatrician, Dr. Anne Stephen, provided creative suggestions for the script. “The goal isn’t only to expose children to the concepts, it is to encourage them to use the health concepts everyday at home,” Stephen said. She led the way at SMDC, encouraging other medical professionals to get involved. In the end, over 100 physicians and staff in 30 specialties are participating in the program.
Kristi Schmidt, vice president, marketing and corporate communications for SMDC Health System and Essentia Health, is a fan of the Voyageur performances. “Our health system takes its role and responsibility seriously,” she said. “It’s our job to improve the lives of the people in the communities we serve.”
“You see it once and you are completely hooked,” said Beery. “It’s an important message, and the music students make it easy for anyone to understand. They’ve designed the message directly aimed at young people.”
UMD has partnered with SMDC Health System and Duluth Children’s to bring the program to our region. HealthPartners provided funding for the Voyageurs’ assistantships and health benefits, which attracted talent from top music programs across the country. Duluth Public Schools have also played a critical role in creating the partnership by involving teachers, principals, and school leaders.
“This program is top-notch,” said Schmidt. “Teachers are mesmerized, kids are into it, and it’s a lot of fun.”
When Adam Meyer, development director for the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), contacted alumna Mary Ebert (’70) about possibly serving on the CLA board, they got to talking about the rising costs of tuition, the increasing number of students who graduate deeply in debt, and the importance of scholarships to relieve some of the burden. But then, instead of saying, “isn’t that awful” or “times are tough,” Ebert asked a remarkable question. She wanted to know if she and her husband, Paul Stembler, could set up two scholarships over the phone with a credit card.
Ebert exudes a can-do spirit. Her positive experiences at UMD fueled her passion for setting up the scholarships. “My years spent at UMD were some of my most memorable. The support I got and the encouragement I was given from my professors was outstanding,” Ebert said.
While at UMD, Ebert focused on sociology and political science but enjoyed delving into other subjects as well. “What I gained from my exposure to history, philosophy, the arts, as well as science, and math classes, gave me such a wonderful academic foundation,” she said. Ebert also participated in social organizations, professional clubs, and on committees. “Involvement in activities such as these, in my eyes, was an equally important facet of my education at UMD. I learned so much about myself, and I formed life-long relationships.”
Stembler is not a UMD alumnus by experience, but perhaps could be considered an alumnus by marriage. He nurtures his wife’s enthusiasm for her UMD years and recognizes the many UMD alumni friends he’s acquired since the couple married almost 35 years ago.
The UMD Ebert/Stembler Scholarship is awarded to two CLA students who demonstrate academic excellence and financial need. The couple hopes that these new and impactful $5,000 scholarships will allow the recipients to enjoy more of what UMD has to offer without having to worry so much about money. Ebert hopes that the scholarships will give each student a chance “to make their UMD experience richer” whether that means joining a UMD club, securing an internship, or attending lectures or performances outside of class. After all, Stembler notes, “There’s more to college life than going to classes.”
Ebert and Stembler were thrilled to meet the two CLA students who received their scholarships. Mary K. Tennis is pursuing a double major in English and art history. Eric Fischer is majoring in criminology with a minor in Spanish. They both will be juniors next fall. Both students impressed the couple. “They were very dedicated, hard working, and interested in their futures,” Stembler said.
Ebert is a Duluth native. After obtaining her undergraduate degree from UMD, she went on to earn a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration from the U of M Twin Cities. Ebert worked for the Minnesota Community College system for ten years and retired in 1986.
Each May, UMD faculty member Ken Gilbertson (’78), takes senior students who are majoring in the Recreation/Outdoor Education program on a nine-day adventure in North Dakota at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. There, Gilbertson said, “students encounter a level of self-awareness that they couldn’t get in the classroom.” They gain enduring leadership skills, increase their ability to face challenges, and hone their problem solving skills. After all, waking up and finding 140 bison in your camp will quickly put theory into practice. Gilbertson has made this trek every year for the past 27 years because he believes that what students learn there is invaluable. “Doing things they’ve never done before, like pitching a tent in the rain, they learn how to take care of themselves,” Gilbertson said. Students also “learn how to bring the best out of others” – a key component of a successful leader.
Gilbertson knows that through nature, people learn about themselves and that those lessons can stay with them throughout their lives. That is one of the reasons that Gilbertson helped found the UMD Recreational Sports Outdoor Program (RSOP), which allows students to take part in various outdoor activities, learn new skills, and stretch themselves physically and mentally.
Prior to helping establish the program, Gilbertson studied other university programs to learn what worked and what didn’t work. He quickly realized that UMD’s program needed to be tied into academics and that it needed to provide professional training. Over time, UMD’s RSOP has become one of the leading programs in the country and celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
To honor his efforts, the UMD Ken Gilbertson Leadership Award was created to provide scholarship awards for UMD students involved in the Outdoor Program. Recipients do not have to be majoring in this program, and thus can gain valuable skills regardless of their career goals. Former students of Gilbertson’s have contributed to this fund over the years.
As a rather shy undergraduate, Gilbertson didn’t set out to be a professor. But working one summer as a canoe guide with American Indian kids from Aberdeen, S.D., he came to appreciate his abilities. “I learned I could listen. I learned I could share. I could share about nature,” Gilbertson recalled. Eventually he went on to earn his Ph.D. in Outdoor Education with a Clinical Counseling emphasis.
Sharing his love of nature has been the cornerstone of Gilbertson’s career. It will also serve as the foundation of the legacy that he will one day leave to UMD. “My life has been focused on UMD, and while research is important, I’m committed to students first and foremost. I’ve decided to use my estate to enrich the Recreation/Outdoor Education program at UMD,” Gilbertson said.
With the gift, Gilbertson would like to help both graduate students and undergraduate students as they pursue their education. “I want to support bringing faculty from other schools to UMD,” he said. He believes it is important for students to learn from educators from different backgrounds and with different perspectives. He is currently working on establishing a student exchange program with universities in Finland. His work and his legacy will continue to benefit many UMD students.
Heller Hall and two named scholarships are fitting tributes to Robert L. Heller who began his 37-year career at UMD as a geography professor, founded the Geology Department and served as its head, then moved into administration and eventually became the provost and chancellor of UMD. His daughter, Nancy Heller Olsen, also wanted to honor her mother, Geraldine Hanson Heller, who worked behind the scenes as her husband’s career flourished and her daughters grew into accomplished women.
Olsen, together with her two sisters, established the Geraldine Hanson Heller Scholarship, which is awarded each year to a full-time undergraduate student pursuing a degree in the Department of Art and Design. This scholarship honors their mother’s accomplishments, her love of art and design, and her love of learning.
As a devoted wife and mother, Geraldine Hanson Heller took on a number of roles. “She didn’t really like to be in the spotlight,” Olsen remembered. Despite that, Mrs. Heller was active in what was then known as the Faculty Wives Club and later as First Lady of UMD. Her position required entertaining and attending countless events – all of which she did graciously.
Mrs. Heller also found time to volunteer with the Townview Improvement Corporation, a group that built and renovated low and moderate-income housing and apartment buildings in Duluth for individuals and families in need. There Mrs. Heller was able to tap into her love of architecture. She had earned her Bachelor of Architecture Degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., and worked briefly for the Harold Starin Architecture Agency before her marriage in 1946. Through the years, Mrs. Heller helped friends and relatives design additions and remodeling projects in their homes. “She sometimes joked that her master’s degree was designing and building our family home,” Olsen recalled.
Mrs. Heller also explored her creativity through painting. She took watercolor classes from UMD Professor Cheng-Khee Chee. For the past few years, Mrs. Heller has suffered from dementia and hasn’t been able to pursue her interest in art until she participated in “Storytelling at the Tweed,” which offers museum tours for visitors with memory loss. The program is a collaboration between UMD’s Tweed Museum of Art, the UMD Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and the Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota-North Dakota. Participants are encouraged to discover themselves while reminiscing about, reflecting upon, or comparing their own life stories to the stories in works of art. When Mrs. Heller attended, participants made collages relating their lives to the museum’s art work. Olsen was thrilled to see the collage her mother produced, which incorporated flowers and architectural elements – things that had always been important to Mrs. Heller. “It provided glimpses of who she is inside, which doesn’t come out anymore,” Olsen said.
Olsen and her mother recently attended the School of Fine Arts Scholarship Award dinner. There they met Aphtin Rapp, a junior studying ceramics, who is the most recent recipient of the Geraldine Hanson Heller Scholarship. “It was fun to talk to her,” Olsen said, and Olsen appreciated the effort Rapp made to speak with her mom.
Olsen remembers all that her mother did for her family, making sure that her girls were able to try so many different things from skiing to harp or piano lessons. “All she ever did was give, give, give,” Olsen recalled. And with a scholarship in her name, the generosity of Geraldine Hanson Heller will continue.
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