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Eddy's Generosity | Love of Learning | Software Entrepreneur | Master of Watercolor | Marketing Analytics


Edwin H. Eddy


Watching the motion picture, The King’s Speech, gives viewers a glimpse of the anxiety, frustration, and terror experienced by those who stutter. While the film is set in the glamorous world of British royalty and the stakes are high, where a king who stutters must deliver a live radio speech to his nation on the verge of war, one doesn’t have to look to the past or cross the ocean to find people dealing with speech problems.

UMD’s Robert F. Pierce Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic serves people of all ages with communication problems, and thanks to the generosity of Duluth native Edwin H. Eddy, who knew the pain of stuttering, help is available to many who might otherwise go without it.

Because he stuttered as a child, Eddy’s parents were understandably protective of him. When he grew into adulthood and didn’t outgrow his severe stutter, it made him increasingly self-conscious. A distant cousin, Elizabeth Simonson, who is a trustee on the board of the Eddy Foundation, remembers him from family gatherings. “Because of his stutter, he was extremely shy and tended to stay close to home. He loved children, but unfortunately never married or had children of his own,” she said. Eddy left $1.6 million in his will to establish the Edwin H. Eddy Charitable Foundation, which funds UMD’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic.

Cindy Spillers, associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, said, “We help all ages and all kinds of communication disorders.” UMD graduate students and undergraduate seniors in the department facilitate the clinic under the supervision of faculty. They see a number of children with communication disorders, but the clinic actually serves more adults than children. “We have one group for individuals who have had strokes. We have another group for those who have suffered traumatic brain injury,” she said. They also see individuals who are autistic, have severe cerebral palsy, and degenerative communication disorders as a result of ALS, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis.

Because the clinic is a teaching clinic, they don’t charge the market rate, making their services very affordable. “We don’t take insurance,” Spillers explained, “but we give clients all the paperwork they need to submit claims.” And she also notes that financial assistance is available for individuals who fall below U.S. income guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Edwin H. Eddy Charitable Foundation also awards scholarships each year to undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Simonson helps to review the applications. “Every time we award scholarships, I think that Edwin would be so proud,” she said. In September 2010, Eddy scholarship monies were awarded to 12 undergraduates, 14 first-year graduate students, and 15 second-year graduate students majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders.

In addition, the Eddy Foundation funds the Edwin H. Eddy Lectures at UMD. National and international speakers give lectures throughout the year to speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and other related professionals.

Above: A group of Eddy Scholarships recipients.



Frank McCray, Jr.

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Frank McCray, Jr., who passed away early in 2011, grew up in the small town of Chiefland, Fla., with the love of reading.  A librarian heard about this little boy. Black people were not allowed in the library, so each week he would knock at the back door. He’d stand outside, then give the librarian the bag of books he had read, and receive the new books the librarian had chosen for him. This love of reading gave McCray an understanding of the world, and his ultimate college choice became the University of Minnesota.  The large, urban campus wasn’t quite right, but UMD was perfect.

At UMD, McCray made friends of classmates and faculty, including English Professor Bob Owens.  His classmates brought him home for dinner and the Christensen family became life-long friends, especially Chris Christensen, father of six. McCray’s academic record at UMD was stellar.  He received his B.A. (’67) and M.A. (’71)  in English and after graduation, he worked for Duluth Mayor Ben Boo while taking classes toward his Ph.D.  His next career move was teaching in two Minnesota public schools.  

Bob Owens and Bob’s wife, Mary Jane, helped McCray make an exciting connection.  Their African experiences influenced McCray to secure a teaching job in Uganda.  Two years passed at a school near Entebbe, Uganda, before political unrest and the policies of dictator Idi Amin overtook the country.  Late one night, McCray heard a knock on his door; it was a friend who told McCray he should leave the country immediately.

At the airport, McCray waited for the first plane.  His name was called over the loud speaker, and he was taken away.  To his relief, it wasn’t the police who wanted to see him, it was his students who had come to say goodbye.  But more terror was ahead.  McCray didn’t have the American dollars for the ticket, and Ugandan money was worthless.  Finally, the airline staff put him on the plane, making him promise to pay when he landed.

Back in Minnesota, McCray began working in Roseville and soon after met Judy Jenkinson.  A coincidence brought them together; they each had season tickets to the symphony.  They married in 1975; their daughter, Elizabeth, arrived in 1976 and their son, Christopher, six years later.

McCray taught Human Relations classes part-time at Anoka-Ramsey and Normandale Community Colleges in addition to his human relations consultant position in Roseville.  One summer, while waiting for his fall assignment, McCray was approached to be an insurance agent.  He immediately enjoyed it. He genuinely cared about his clients, listened to their needs, and still was an educator.

The McCrays often stayed with the Christensens or Bob and Mary Jane Owens.  “Visiting Duluth always felt like going home,”  Judy said.

The connection and generosity continues.  After Frank McCray passed away, his wife, Judy, and children, Elizabeth and Christopher, honored Frank’s wishes and established the Frank McCray, Jr. Achievement Scholarship. McCray often gave credit for his success to his background at UMD.  The family expects to award the first scholarship in spring 2012.



Eric Swildens

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Eric Swildens, who graduated from UMD in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, was inducted into the 2006 Academy of Science and Engineering at age 34, the youngest inductee in the history of the academy.

Now, Swildens serves on the Swenson College of Science and Engineering (SCSE) external advisory board. “The board helps UMD with outside feedback,” he said. “We provide a corporate and  external viewpoint to help students get jobs when they graduate. We know what skills are needed and what UMD needs to do to make graduates attractive to hiring.”

At a SCSE External Advisory Board meeting, UMD student Dana Johnson, a double major in mechanical engineering and industrial engineering, gave a presentation on UMD’s Formula One–style race car. The student group, part of the Society of Automotive Engineers, designs, constructs, and tests a Formula One–style race car in order to compete in the nationwide competition. Swildens was impressed.   So impressed, he made a donation to support the project.

Perhaps Swildens sees a bit of himself in the students working on the race car. He remembers throwing himself into his assignments. “They became much more than just school projects, they became part of me,” he said.

Swildens acknowledges the assistance he received. “UMD faculty were very good,” he said. “They helped me get interviews, which led to my first job at Control Data. They got me started in a career as a computer science engineer.”

It’s been quite a career. After graduating from UMD, and the brief stretch at Control Data Corp. in Minneapolis, Swildens landed in Silicon Valley. He had a hand in a wide range of products — network servers, user-interface frameworks, interactive gaming, developer tools, 3D graphics systems and others. He took on increasingly challenging positions in software development, basing two companies on his ideas, Microline Software and Speedera Networks.

In 1996, he co-founded and was CEO of Microline Software in Sunnyvale, Calif. The company, which used Java technology and developed graphic user interface software, was sold one year later.

In 1999, along with two co-founders, Swildens created Speedera Networks, a web-based content delivery company. Speedera created an on-demand, utility-like solution that provided outsourced services for companies seeking to extend their Web presence — companies such as NASA, Fox Broadcasting, and Sony Music Entertainment. “We developed the largest servers in the world to deliver the largest websites,” he said. The company went global and was sold in 2005.

Recently, Swildens has changed directions, co-founding Waba Financial, which specializes in commercial real estate in the Twin Cities.

Faculty say Swildens thrived in a science environment. They predicted his success. Carolyn Crouch, professor and director of graduate students for the Department of Computer Science said, “I remember him as a fine student and someone who was active in class participations. He certainly stood out.”

“Being inducted into the Academy of Science and Engineering was a huge privilege for me,” he said. “I tried different classes and majors until I realized that I should major in computer technology, because it came naturally to me.” Swildens credits UMD with giving him the tools he needed to succeed in the computer industry.


Cheng Khee Chee

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A renowned watercolorist, Cheng-Khee Chee began his professional life with dual careers as a librarian and art instructor. He became a full-time artist after his retirement from UMD in 1994.

Chee came to America in 1962 and received his master’s degree from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 1964. He then moved to Duluth and began working as a librarian at UMD. He pursued watercolor painting on evenings, weekends, and holidays. After receiving national recognition as an accomplished watercolorist, he started teaching watercolor courses at UMD from 1979 until his retirement.

Chee is also widely known for his artwork in the bestselling children’s book, Old Turtle, receiving the 1994 American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award (ABBY) and the International Reading Association Children’s Book of the Year Award.

Now a full-time watercolorist, Chee perceives art as his life and painting as his journey. “I am on my journey searching for a perfect watercolor,” he said. “I have never been satisfied with any painting I have done so far, but I am always happy when I paint, knowing that each painting I do will take me one step closer to my perfect watercolor.”

Chee’s studio, lined with windows and full-spectrum lights, is filled with the famous and familiar paintings of koi and landscapes.  While art is his life, Chee continues to judge national shows, conduct workshops, and encourage aspiring young artists. “I believe a good painting should achieve the unity of objective and the subjective, showing both the image as it exists and the image in the artist’s mind.” He encourages students to use the technical skills they have mastered to express their own ideas, principles, philosophy, and creative energy.

“Students can learn from the master, but they should reach deep in their own hearts to find their own voice.”

To honor students after his retirement, Chee established the UMD Cheng-Khee Chee Art Scholarship. His scholarship intention reflects Mother Teresa’s philosophy that: We do no great things, only small things with great love. “I am deeply grateful to the university and for my career at UMD,” Chee said.  “I hope to be able to do some small things to repay my debt of gratitude with great love. Unlike other disciplines, art scholarships are hard to come by. Even a small one will at least help students buy their expensive art supplies. In the meantime, it will also encourage, inspire, and promote positive feeling.”

The annual scholarship award is given to a UMD art student, or students, who demonstrate or show promise of outstanding achievement in their creative work. The UMD art and design faculty select the student based on established criteria; Chee warmly welcomes contact from the recipients and over the years, visiting his studio has been an honor for several art students who received the scholarship.



Dan Fishback

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Dan Fishback (’83) has an affinity for start-ups. He has held senior executive positions with three successful start-up companies in the technology and computer software industry, all of which he and his partners either took public or sold.

For the past 10 years, he has led DemandTec, Inc., a collaborative optimization network for retailers and consumer products companies. As their president and CEO, the company has evolved from a Silicon Valley start-up with 30 employees into an international corporation trading on NASDAQ.

It’s little wonder that a new retail marketing analytics program, being developed by UMD’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE), intrigued Fishback. He immediately saw how important this program could be.

In UMD’s retail marketing analytics program (ReMAP), students learn quantitative skills that are directly relevant to retail analytics. They receive a solid foundation in marketing and must demonstrate excellent written and verbal communication skills.

Fishback is a strong advocate of showing students how an aptitude for math can lead to careers. “Young people don’t have an appreciation of what they can do with math and analytic skills,” he said. Each year, the company sponsors the DemandTec Retail Challenge (, which awards scholarships to seniors in high school who solve real-world problems in retail.

Fishback brainstormed with LSBE officials over the development of the ReMAP program. He was familiar with other schools. “There are very few schools offering this kind of program to undergraduates,” he said.

DemandTec became a ReMAP partner, providing financial support and contributing simulated software solutions and mock data sets, allowing student access to real industry tools. DemandTec is a  facilitator between UMD and many of the clients with whom DemandTec works. “Partnering with LSBE, we are helping key employers who need these kind of employees,” he said.

Fishback believes that UMD’s Midwest location is an asset. “Minnesota has a strong retail base with corporations like Target, Best Buy, and General Mills. ReMAP will prepare students for working as interns and then as employees,” he said.

He hopes that UMD will continue to nurture relationships with corporations. “There is tremendous collaboration between businesses and universities on the West Coast,” he said. When he was a student at UMD earning his degree in business administration, Fishback played hockey and spent time with boosters and supporters, many from the business community. “I saw how business can support a university,” he said.

Fishback foresees retailers and consumer products companies increasingly shying away from hiring strictly general business majors or strictly statisticians. Graduates with skills in marketing and analytics, what he calls “hybrids,” will be “the coveted employees of the future.” People with marketing skills and applied mathematical skills are “the kind of people our clients want to hire every day,” he said.

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Last modified on 09/18/11 04:22 PM
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