The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth
THRIVING WITH A BOOST FROM UMD
UNCOMMON SUCCESS STORIES
Six UMD alumni have found ways to thrive in a changing world and to make a difference to the people around them
To Gordy 47 and Ruby (Mattson) 45 Pappas, music and memories of UMD intertwine. These two music teachers, who grew up in Duluth, formed a relationship in their college years that has taken them through a lifetime of musical adventures.
It started after college with their first years as teachers. In Richland, Washington, Gordy taught high school band and Ruby taught a musical kindergarten. Former UMD Professor Dr. Eric Sandin, who was hired as the Richland vice superintendent, recruited Gordy and Ruby, along with a cadre of other UMD graduates including Bud (Clarence) Schultz and Meg Hodgson, to the growing community in the 1950s.
After 12 years in Richland, Gordy and Ruby Pappas moved to Castro Valley, California. Gordy once again took up band in the San Leandro schools, and Ruby took on the role of itinerant music teacher, traveling with her musical offerings to all the schools in the school district. The couples musical talents permeated their growing home as well, as they raised their five children, who are all musicians. Gordy and Ruby held reunions with the Richland gang every year or two, and made music together.
In 1983, after Gordy had taught for 37 years and Ruby for 24 years, they retired, if you can call it that. Between their tennis dates and walks, they are both active, with, you guessed it, music. Ruby still plays the organ, substituting in churches all over the area. Gordy plays in four bands and one ensemble. He continues to write arrangements, as he did at the Duluth State Teachers College and UMD, only now he does it on the computer.
Music and memories of their time in Duluth are intertwined. After all, they got to know each other while they were both at the Duluth State Teachers College. They knew each other in passing from a performance in an all-school orchestra. She had gone to Denfeld High School and played the cello; he had gone to Central and played trumpet, but it was in DSTCs Olcott Hall that their friendship got stronger. Olcott Hall seems to be a place that holds their strongest memories. They still can recite together the quote from Plato that was mounted on the wall of the grand staircase, Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other; for rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, making the soul of him who is rightly educated, graceful.
Most of their classes were in Old Main. We only remember the uphill climb, said Ruby. In rain or shine, wind or snow, I climbed up to Old Main from my home near downtown Duluth. Going down wasnt nearly as memorable. The music classes were held in Olcott Hall. On some days, they would spend all day in the East Hillside mansion. After class we would heat up a meal in the little kitchen, sprawl out on a couch to take a nap, and then practice for hours, Gordy said. The recitals were held in the Olcott Hall entry. While each music student performed on the little patio right in front of the door, 30 to 40 classmates would sit on stairs or on the floor. It was cozy. Its where we held our parties. Wed crowd in for programs and awards presentations, he said.
The music majors, also called the Buckhorns, were a close group. They had to be. Each year they went on the road for a week, across Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to recruit high school students to Duluth. They traveled in a bus, with a couple of cars following to haul equipment. Wed roll into a high school in the morning, set up the equipment, and perform for an assembly. Then wed pack up, drive again, and give an afternoon performance at a second school, Gordy said. The choir and the orchestra traveled with Jackson Ehlert and his sister Nyda Ehlert, who ran the music department. The students wrote all the arrangements, adapting popular songs by the Fred Waring group, George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. The men wore tuxedos, the women wore formals, Ruby said. The curtain would go up and on stage, Ruby, with her brown hair worn in a bob, would be at the piano, ready to play Gordys arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue.
If you were to look in the yearbook from 1945, you will see the word Buckhorn after the names of students who belonged to the music club. The Buckhorn tradition originated on one of these musical recruitment trips. The students would stay with families in the community and on a rare occasions, a motel. One night, a few years before Gordy and Ruby joined the club, Jackson Ehlert discovered that a couple of his orchestra players were not in the Wisconsin motel where they belonged. They were at the Buckhorn tavern and from that day forward, the music class took the name.
Ruby and Gordy would have graduated together, except for World War II. Gordy enlisted and was in the Army for three and a half years. He came back to finish his degree just as DSTC changed to UMD. Ruby stayed nearby. She gave sixth and seventh graders piano lessons.
Ruby and Gordy have set their lives to music and in so doing have enriched the lives of all of those around them, their friends, their fellow musicians, their classmates, their colleagues and their family. At a recent family gathering, all five of Ruby and Gordys children performed making yet another day a symphony.
Alayne (Cole) Berkins 69 says that the skills she acquired at UMD, her research work in the library and her study of the French and Spanish languages, served her well. She left UMD for Wayzata, Minneapolis, and the Tampa area where she lives with her husband, Chuck, who graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 1970. Even though she has moved far from Duluth, she has kept part of UMD with her.
After graduation and a five-year stint teaching school in Wayzata, Berkins joined the Latin American Division staff at the First National Bank of Minneapolis as a translator and interpreter. Berkins was helping make transactions, sometimes as large as $15 and $20 million, with banks in Central and South America for companies like Pillsbury, General Mills, Cargill and American Hoist and Derrick. I was thankful for the small classes and the personalized attention I got at UMD because I needed to be precise when I translated documents, she said. I couldnt have received a better education than I did from teachers like Professor Richard DeLuca for Spanish and Yolande Jenny for French.
Berkins also had used her language proficiency as a work study student. She worked in the UMD library making $1.42 an hour. They had me take care of the foreign periodicals, she said. And we did research for different professors. Because we were given topics from such diverse fields, I was able to learn about the nature of research and the nature of inquiry. I still use those research skills today.
When the famous sculptor, Jacques Lipschitz, came to UMD from France to dedicate the sculpture of Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Lhut, which stands in Ordean Court, Berkins was there, conversing with him in French. The encounter had a powerful impact on her. When Lipschitz left to go back to France, he started to cry, Berkins said, I asked him what was wrong and he told me that it was hard for him to leave his creation, Sieur du Lhut; they had been together for so long.
Berkins was a classmate of Eric Eskola, known to Minnesotans as the host of Almanac, a Public Broadcasting System program. I talked to Eric a few years ago, she said. We both remembered each other from the library. Eric was a mass communication student and he had a long commute from his home to UMD. Once there was a storm and the roads were bad, so he didnt get his books to the reserve desk on time. The fines for reserve items were calculated by the minute so when he came in, he looked devastated. I was able to waive the fine for him and he has never forgotten it.
Berkins is able to use her language and research skills in the company, Rochester Electro-Medical Inc., she and her husband, Chuck, now own. Chucks father founded the company, which began operating in Rochester, Minnesota, to make special devices for doctors that worked out of the Mayo Clinic. As doctors left the Mayo Clinic and set up practices in hospitals around the country, they needed the same medical equipment as used in Rochester. Berkins can relate to her customers needs because of her own curiosity and desire to come up with answers and solutions. Now, the Berkins have over 1,000 customers who buy diagnostic equipment, including St. Lukes, St. Marys/Duluth Clinic, and Miller Dwan hospitals in Duluth. Rochester Electro-Medical Inc. makes over 450 different devices. The equipment makes brain wave recordings and in other ways assists with surgery and procedures for patients with epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Parkinsons disease, and even sports injuries.
Berkins say that UMD prepared her in ways she didnt realize at the time. Looking back on her education, Berkins says she learned life lessons at UMD in addition to her studies. Dr. (Raymond) Darland handled a time of tremendous unrest with dignity and grace. They were turbulent times. During the Vietnam War, student protesters got nasty. I watched them throw things over the railing in Ordean Court at employment recruiters from corporations that had military contracts. Through it all, Dr. Darland respected both sides. He was an absolute academic and yet he was a down-to-earth leader who could relate to all of the students. He was a tall Northern Great Plains man with a doctorate; just the right man for the right time.
Not all of campus life was so emotionally charged. Berkins remembers meeting Alice Tweed Tuohy when the Tweed Gallery was dedicated. Berkins was also a sports fan. It was the football and hockey games that pulled the whole UMD spirit together, she said. Ralph Romano was director of athletics and his wife Barbara was advisor for the Sigma Psi Gamma Sorority. We would go to the games to see Keith Huffer Christiansen play, Berkins said. I still watch sports on television to catch a glimpse of former UMD hockey player Glenn Chico Resch. Resch was one of Berkins classmates who went on to play with the New York Islanders.
It was a portrait of an era, Berkins continued. The hockey games were played at the old Duluth Curling Club near Leif Ericson Park. It wasnt heated and we sat on wooden benches, rink side, wearing our Kickerino boots. The side walls were only three feet high so occasionally people in the arena would get hit by the hockey puck.
At her graduation ceremony, Vice President Hubert Humphrey gave the commencement address. This was my first experience with national security. We were in the gymnasium and it was wide open. Any one could have gotten in there. But we were told not to shake hands with the vice president. And we didnt.
At UMD, Berkins quest for knowledge was encouraged, from the mastery of languages to the joy of perpetual inquiry. I truly believe that I got such an excellent education at UMD because the university existed for the students. I had small classes and teachers that paid attention to me and that made me really learn.
When Jerome Klun 61, arrived at UMD, he didnt know that he would meet a professor that would change his life. Klun came from the secure world of Ely, Minnesota, where he worked at his fathers grocery business, Kluns Store, along with his five younger brothers and one sister. His weekends and summers were spent working in the store and watching his father butcher meat and entertain the citizens of Ely. His dad cracked jokes from behind the meat counter to his waiting crowd of customers. As often as possible, Klun slipped away to canoe the lakes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, or to survey gigantic Mallet steam engines as they departed from Ely iron ore mines for Duluth pulling tons of high grade iron ore. Klun didnt attend UMD immediately after high school. He first attended Ely Junior College, now called Vermilion Community College but after he graduated, UMD was his next stop.
The first fall at UMD he car pooled home to Ely on the weekends to work in the store, but soon his major in zoology and a minor in chemistry took up too much of his time. Another event was to interfere with trips home to Ely. Klun met Dr. Huai Chiang, then associate professor in the UMD Biology Department, now a Professor Emeritus of Entomology, Fisheries, and Wildlife at the University of Minnesota. Chiang introduced Klun to the concept of working with interrelated disciplines, especially organic chemistry, entomology and biology, and that introduction was to forever change Kluns life. Klun became one of Chiangs star students and as Klun began looking at graduate school, Chiang recommended him for a research assistantship at Iowa State University. Before and after coming to UMD, Chiang had spent 20 years researching the European corn borer moth. In a 1961 UMD biology lab, Klun was struck by Chiangs research record, and made a comment to a fellow student. He said, 20 years is an awfully long time to study one insect and I cant imagine how Dr. Chiang did that. These words would come back to haunt Klun. His quote made it into Chiangs autobiography many years later because Klun went on to Iowa State to pick up European corn borer research where Chiang left off. Klun did his Ph.D. dissertation on the European corn borer and subsequently studied the insect for a total of 16 years.
Klun received his Ph.D. from Iowa State in 1965 but stayed on to do research for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the University. Between 1965 and 1977, Kluns major interest was in the sex pheromone chemistry of moths. He was fascinated by discovering the exact chemical signals used by females to attract their mates. Kluns fascination paid off. He became one of the first entomologists in the world to chemically identify the sex pheromone of an insect. The first was the silk worm in 1956; the second was the cabbage looper in 1960; and the third was the European corn borer, identified by Jerome A. Klun. Departing from Iowa in 1977 for a USDA position in Beltsville, MD, he went on to elucidate the intricacies of moth sex communications, the genetic basis of the European corn borer sex pheromone communications, and identify sex pheromones of some of the most economically important moths in agriculture such as the corn earworm and the tobacco budworm. The pheromones he identified are used today to monitor moth populations worldwide.
Studying chemicals that affect insect behavior took Klun to his current endeavor involving mosquitoes. Working out of his laboratory just outside Washington, D.C. at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Klun is engaged in a collaborative effort with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, MD to develop a new standard military insect repellent. There are no better places to conduct this research than Walter Reed and the Agricultural Research Center. They are state-of-the-art facilities, unrivaled world wide, and it is an honor to be able to conduct research in them, Klun said.
His current studies are focused on protection of humans against insects that are vectors, disease-carrying pests, of malaria, dengue, Lyme disease, West Nile virus, yellow fever, and other diseases. Klun wants to change the emphasis from killing the insects to protecting humans from being bitten by vectors. He is looking for environmentally peaceful ways to produce a barrier between us and arthropods like mosquitoes, sand flies, ticks, and chiggers. The research has implications for civilian and Department of Defense (DoD) uses.
In case of DoD, the only protection military forces now have against vector-borne diseases is a repellent known as DEET. The compound was discovered over 50 years ago by early founders of the USDA laboratory where Klun now works. DEET was developed to protect armed forces, but the repellent comes with undesirable qualities. It is unpleasantly sticky when applied to skin. It dissolves plastics, such as sunglass lenses. Worst of all, people suspect it does harm to humans, and while there is no proof, it is perceived as being involved in the Gulf War syndrome. Klun said, Because of these factors, many troops resisted using the DEET they were issued upon deployment, making them susceptible to the many diseases vectored by mosquitoes and other blood-feeders. Historically, armies have been brought to their knees not by sword and canon but, by insect-borne diseases. Knowing this, military commanders wished to develop a replacement for DEET that troops would use without hesitation and bring protection back to the war fighter. This is where my current collaborative research with the military has come into play.
Klun might have found an entomological Holy Grail. His lab, in the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), was granted a patent on a variation of a repellent discovered by ARS researchers more than 20 years ago. Klun recently identified one version of the original repellent, based on a piperidine nucleus, a molecule found in trace amounts in black pepper, that is three to four times more effective at preventing yellow-fever transmitting mosquitoes from biting than the original repellent. Its also the optimal version against the species that transmits West Nile virus. The new compound should become available to the general public and the military in the near future.
Kluns latest research has identified, not just the one variation, but dozens that are candidate compounds for testing. It is possible that piperidine-based isomers can be identified for use against ticks and other disease-transmitting arthropods, as well as mosquitoes.
Klun still returns home to the northland and credits his childhood in northern Minnesota with instilling in him a robust work ethic and a curiosity about nature. In the fall of 2002, Klun was inducted into the UMD Academy of Science and Engineering, and his family came to the celebration. Harriet Klun, Jerrys wife, said the gathering was a milestone. Jerrys brothers told him that they were inspired when he left the grocery store in 1959 and went to college at UMD and then on to a Ph.D. It made his brothers believe in themselves. Kluns Store no longer exists in Ely, in part, because none of Jerrys five brothers stayed on to mind the store. Instead, they went on to become a lawyer, a state agency administrator, a 747 aircraft captain, and two Ph.D. organic chemists. Jerome Kluns interest in the natural world and biological science continues to be a compelling driving force in his life, and UMD is delighted to have played a pivotal role in it all.
Mary Alice Carlson 96 had been to the nursing home before, to meet with the families of Alzheimer patients, to conduct training for the staff and to visit the residents. In some ways, it was familiar territory. But Carlson brought something special. She had Daniel, a golden retriever that belongs to her friend. The wheelchairs poured into the hall. Nurses and residents wanted to look. There was competition for who got to pet Daniel first. Then, a nurses aide wheeled a patient, well call him Harry, into the hall. Carlson had seen Harry many times. He was in the advanced stages of Alzheimers. Harry doesnt communicate; he doesnt even watch television. But that day was different. As if the dog knew, he pulled Carlson to Harrys side. Harry smiled and then he quietly spoke. Oh, my good lad, Harry said. My good son, I have been looking everywhere for you. My good lad, I am so glad you are home.
Carlson, a 1996 graduate of the education psychology masters program, credits UMD with giving her confidence and credentials. At UMD, Carlson learned to blend her caring nature with strong professionalism. The combination makes Carlson a powerful influence in the care of Alzheimer patients.
Carlson doesnt get to bring Daniel to nursing homes often enough. Usually, her position as the Duluth Center Director of the Alzheimers Association, Minnesota-Dakotas Chapter, keeps her busy with other projects. The Alzheimers Association is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help persons with Alzheimers disease, their families and caregivers through support, education, advocacy, and research. Carlson travels through 12 Minnesota counties, to facilities such as the Silver Bay Veterans Hospital, the Benedictine Health Center and the Lakeshore Lutheran Home. In addition to providing information and support to families, she helps educate the public and health care professionals.
She is one of the people in northeastern Minnesota who is trained to help families set up a plan for an aging parent. I try to help them build a safety net, she said. When a family receives a diagnosis of Alzheimers, they are in for a long illness. Carlson can help them anticipate what issues will arise as the illness develops. There is a lot to consider. Where does the parent get placed? Who will be the primary care givers? How can the care be divided evenly, so no one feels dumped on? These are all questions that if answered up front, avoid problems later on.
Carlson also regularly meets with the wives of Korean and World War II veterans who have Alzheimers. It is an honor and a privilege to spend time with these brave women, she said. Often, her task is to encourage respite care. Women of the WWII generation sometimes are reluctant to leave their homes, or to let someone else in. They take their marriage vows seriously. They have to be convinced that getting a little help isnt breaking a promise. If they dont get relief from the grueling demands of caregiving, they get sick themselves.
Carlson said that if she had one wish, it would be to be out of a job. I want to live in a world without Alzheimers disease. We havent seen the tip of the iceberg. Minnesotas population is aging. Until we find a cure, my job is only going to get harder. Carlson holds workshops for families, she brings in experts to train medical professionals, she conducts family meetings and she personally answers a significant number of the calls that come in on the Alzheimers Association hotline.
Carlson organizes the Alzheimers Association Memory Walk, a benefit that raises over $50,000 each year for direct services for the Alzheimers Association, Minnesota-Dakotas Chapter. Carlson freely gives out her phone number, 218-726 4819, so people can contact her to make a pledge or volunteer.
UMD was a turning point in Carlsons journey. She started with a free course at Fond du Lac Community College, and, even with her two children at home, it didnt take her long to realize that she thrived in the higher education environment. She took more classes. By the end of her second year, she received an A.A. degree and also was nominated for the Student of the Year and she received the Fond du Lac Community College Human Service Award for her work in grief support. I got a hint of my future calling when I developed a grief support program in rural Minnesota. I realized a need and acted on it, she said.
With these achievements in her first two years in college, it is no surprise that the College of St. Scholastica recruited her to continue her studies in psychology. She graduated with an undergraduate degree from CSS. Now, every fall, Carlson teaches an abnormal psychology class at St. Scholastica.
It became UMDs turn to pursue Carlson. She was chosen from almost 100 applicants to take one of the 14 open slots in the education psychology masters degree program. She credits the UMD faculty for getting her through. She said Assistant Professor Jane Hovland, always went the extra mile for me. She understood that I had kids at home and that I had to drive 50 minutes each way to get here, through Minnesota winters. Carlson said Professor Uwe Stuecher commanded respect. You never had to guess what was expected with Professor Stuecher and I appreciated that, she said.
Carlsons highest praise goes to Associate Professor Eugene Grossman. She cites time after time that Professor Grossman assisted her in her studies. But encouragement meant the most after Carlsons final comprehensive written exam. Each candidate was given five and a half hours to answer seven questions. When Carlson found out the results of the exam, she passed on six of the seven questions, she was devastated. I cried for four hours. And then at 11 p.m. Carlsons phone rang. It was Gene Grossman. He told me he had been at a conference and wasnt able to contact me earlier. He asked me to meet him the following day and we would schedule a study plan and a rewrite, Carlson said. Very few phone calls have meant as much to me as that call.
Carlsons job is draining. She uses a variety of strategies to stay mentally and physically healthy. She doesnt have an answering machine at home and she has made a commitment to ride her horse at least once a week. That was another thing I learned at UMD. I cant help others if I am exhausted. I realized that I have to stay balanced in order to be truly compassionate.
Doug Huseby, 66, talked to a group of UMD business and economics students at the Professor for a Day event in the fall of 2002. If you have a vision and you are passionate about it, you can start a small business, he said. Every year, add to the business, solve your problems, use common sense, and above all surround yourself with people who have the skills you lack. Not everyone can do everything well and thats O.K. Once you gather people you trust, work as a team.
Huseby knows how to become an entrepreneur, because he has done it. From a 500 square foot pole barn 28 years ago to todays 300,000 square foot furniture showroom, the largest retail space of its kind in Minnesota, Huseby has built Becker Furniture World to a destination shopping store. The recent expansion to double the space was a gamble that is paying off. We believed that if we didnt expand, it would be an even larger gamble. With gas prices rising, it is more expensive than ever to drive to the tiny town of Becker, Minnesota and we needed to make it worth the trip, he said. The store, with its $10 million expansion now open, is filled with thousands of items for living rooms, bedrooms, offices, kids rooms, dining rooms, and patios. There is a leather store, a billiards room, and a half dozen exclusive lines of furniture. From $100 close-out items in the Outlet Store to $7000 pool tables and $10,000 dining sets, there is something for everyone. Hundreds of people make the trip, often driving more than an hour, just to see the vast selection.
Huseby is far from the UMD undergraduate classrooms of Richard Sielaff and John Boyer where he first got the vision to own a business. In fact, he was recently honored for his accomplishments when he was named the 2002 Ernst & Young Minnesota Entrepreneur of the Year. Over the years, Huseby has learned the furniture trade inside and out. His buyers import leather couches from Italy, several shipping containers at a time. He can talk about advertising, promotions, signage, and placement, in detail. But the merchandise isnt his only concern. Take care of your customers, take care of your employees and be honest, he said. His managers, under the leadership of Jim, his oldest son, do a great job of overseeing this philosophy.
The employees chat with Huseby as he moves through the store. He has an open door policy. He meets with his sales people on a regular basis. He asks that employees talk to him about the business. The sales people come up with great suggestions and whenever we can, we act on them immediately.
The atmosphere of the store is pleasant. Customers and employees seem to do a lot of smiling, and employee wellness is Husebys primary interest. I talk to other employers and they put thousands of dollars into the maintenance of their equipment and buildings, Huseby said. But they are forgetting their most valuable asset of all, their employees. Huseby is concerned about his employees, and some of them are his family. His two sons and his wife, Julie, also work at Becker Furniture World. Even his daughters children get in the act. They appear in the store advertising.
Huseby has a unique, even radical, approach to the health of his employees and his family and it is an approach that yields surprising results.
If you look around Becker Furniture World, you see a water cooler with filtered water about every 100 feet. There are air purifiers through the showrooms. You feel fresh air circulating through the space and in the center of the store is a cafe that serves healthy foods. A new restaurant just opened with 130 seats for more options for employees and customers. Clean water, air and food are key components of Husebys strategy.
Behind the scenes there are even more surprises. Dr. Brent Schneideman, a chiropractor, has a clinic for employees in a corner of the store. A medical doctor visits once a month. They are part of the Wellness Program. Employees are charged reduced fees to see the medical practitioners and they receive a reduction on their insurance premium if they participate. This revolutionary health plan begins with an assessment from which a nutritional program is customized to the employee. The store also holds two wellness seminars a month. Healthy eating, vitamins, minerals, other natural remedies are main components of the system. Exercise is important for health, too, but that is rarely a problem. Most employees get plenty of exercise by taking customers around the store.
Only about a third of the employees participate in the plan, nevertheless, the results are phenomenal. Annual sick days for Becker Furniture World employees are one fifth that of the industry average. The health insurance premium for the company has risen only two percent in the last year, compared to the regional average of 16 percent.
All this seems reason enough for Huseby to receive the title of Minnesota Entrepreneur of the Year, but there is more. The company operates a foundation with projects like Jessicas Beds to provide beds for homeless children. They provide financial support for a camp in Brainerd for handicapped children. They even helped drill wells for families in Africa during the recent drought.
From family, to employees, to the underprivileged, all the way to UMD classrooms full of UMD students, Doug Huseby makes an impact. He has an answer to that, The more I give, the more I get back.