The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth

Volume 21• Number 2 • Summer 2004

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Hobey Baker Award --- Miss Deaf MN --- Italian American Fest --- Kirby Plaza

Transportation Forum --- Pelli Honorary Degree --- Holocaust Commoration

Taylor Honorary Degree --- UMD at Summit --- Men's Chorus

Webers Receive Award --- Johnson Music Scholarship --- Geology Reunion

The UMD men’s hockey team had a victorious season. The team returned to the NCAA Frozen Four tournament after a 19-year absence. Although the team placed fourth in the tournament, their spirits remained high as senior right wing, Lucien Junior Lessard, a 2004 UMD graduate, was chosen as the winner of the 2003-2004 Hobey Baker Memorial Award. This is the fourth time a UMD student has received the award. The award honored Lessard as the top Division I player in the country. In addition, Coach Scott Sandelin received the 2003-2004 Spencer Penrose Award naming him the American Hockey Coaches Association’s NCAA Division I Coach of the Year.
Lessard and Sandelin were also honored at the Minnesota State Capitol by Governor Tim Pawlenty as he officially proclaimed May 7 as Junior Lessard Day and May 8 as Scott Sandelin Day. 

Elee Vang, a first year UMD student from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota came to UMD with a title: Miss Deaf Minnesota. She is serving in that role from 2003-2005 and will compete for the Miss Deaf America this summer at the National Association of the Deaf Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. Miss Deaf Minnesota is sponsored by the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens.Vang is studying to be an audiologist and is enrolled in the UMD Communication Science and Disorders program.
The Miss Deaf America Pageant offers young women an opportunity to develop self-confidence as they compete to become a goodwill ambassador and spokeswoman of the National Association of the Deaf. The goal is to encourage and foster future leaders. The women are judged across a broad spectrum of categories including community service, academics, current events, knowledge of deaf culture, and more.


The Italian American Festival 2004 kicked off last fall with the UMD Theatre Department’s production of Guys and Dolls. Fifteen Italian students and faculty from the Conservatorio di Musica Vincenzo Bellini in Palermo, Italy, joined the UMD student orchestra for the production. The festival then traveled to Palermo, Italy in January 2004 with 120 UMD students and faculty who performed Guys and Dolls at the Teatro Politeama. The well-known American musical entertained hundreds at the beautiful historic theatre. UMD’s Jazz Ensemble I along with lead singer Steve Vecchi, 1977 UMD alumnus, produced two Big Band Shows highlighting the music of the great Italian American crooners who included Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. In addition, the Art & Design Department and the Tweed Museum of Art held the art exhibition “Perspectives from America,” with more than 60 pieces of original artwork, at the Palazzo Sclafani in cooperation with the Accademia di Belle Arti.
The Italian American Festival continued in Duluth in April 2004 with the UMD Theatre Department’s production of The Secret of the Talking Bird, directed by UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin. In addition, the Italian opera, La Traviata was performed, with 100 Italian students, UMD students, and professionals, in the DECC Auditorium. Other festival activities included an International Conference, an Italian art exhibition, Italian Heritage Day, a Duluth High School Italian Concert, the National Italian American Foundation reception, and a Heritage Banquet.


Kirby Plaza is in the heart of the UMD campus and as students arrive after the summer away from campus, Kirby Plaza is the hub of campus activity with a Duluth Transit Authority bus hub, a child care center, several different stores, a pizza parlor and lots of dining options.
The College of Pharmacy is in its temporary quarters already and several other offices occupy the building. Kirby Plaza is located on Kirby Drive, which has been closed for the exterior construction of the James I. Swenson Science Building. The road, which stretches from College Street to St. Marie Street, will open later this fall.


UMD hosted the James L. Oberstar Forum on Transportation Policy and Technology last March at UMD. Emil H. Frankel, Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, U.S. Dept. of Transportation and dozens of top ranking officials from across the country joined Congressman James L. Oberstar at the session. Others joined UMD via live webcast. One highlight was a public event entitled, “Transportation in Rural America.


World-renowned architect, Cesar Pelli was the featured speaker at UMD’s Commencement Ceremonies. Pelli, who designed UMD’s stunning, acoustically exceptional, Weber Music Hall, and whose architectural masterpieces are located throughout the world, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for cultural contributions. (See his Commencement Address in this issue.) In 1991 Pelli was named one of the ten most influential living American architects.

Upon completion of Weber Music Hall — calling it his “little building”, Pelli said, “I am extremely proud of Weber Hall. It will prove to be the finest small concert hall in America. The experience of the space is as exhilarating as the music being played in it.” Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin said, “We are proud to honor Cesar Pelli for his outstanding accomplishments in the field of architecture as well as his many contributions as a scholar and as a mentor. He has touched the lives of many, and his extraordinary vision will live on through his former students, his colleagues and his exceptional work.”

Cesar Pelli has shaped the urban landscape around the world during his distinguished design career. A native of Argentina, he studied architecture in Tucuman at the Universidad Nacional, graduating in 1949. He emigrated to the United States in 1952, and he received his master’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Pelli taught at the University of Illinois and began as an apprentice with Eero Saarinen in 1954 before moving to Los Angeles to join the firms of Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall and Gruen Associates. In 1977, he founded Cesar Pelli & Associates in New Haven, Connecticut. Pelli helped shape the careers of hundreds of students while serving as the dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University from 1977 to 1984.

He has published several books and numerous articles on the field of architecture, including the 1999 release of Observations for Young Architects. In 1995, the American Institute of Architects awarded Pelli the Gold Medal, which recognized a lifetime of distinguished achievement and outstanding contributions. In 1989, the American Institute of Architects awarded Cesar Pelli & Associates its Firm Award in recognition of standard-setting work in architectural design.
Pelli designed the Norwest (Wells Fargo) building in downtown Minneapolis and the new Minneapolis Public Library. Examples of Pelli’s work make grand statements around the globe, including the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (the world’s tallest buildings), the World Financial Center in New York, the Canary Wharf Tower in London, the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, and Washington National Airport.


The Baeumler-Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration Committee sponsored artists Samual Bak, Art Spiegelman, Debbie Teicholz and Ellen Rothenberg in April. In addition to the art exhibitions, there were lectures, films and educational programs.The committee extends its gratitude to all donors to the Baeumler-Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration Fund. Special thanks to Cindy and Jack Seiler for their leadership in the campaign to raise $150,000.


William “Billy” Taylor, world-renowned jazz pianist, received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters for Cultural Contributions from the University of Minnesota Duluth in March.
Taylor is the Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale, an adviser for jazz at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and the Barrett Chair of Music at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In a career that has spanned six decades, he has shared his music with people around the world through performance, recordings, lectures, public arts initiatives and television.
Taylor still performs regularly with his current jazz trio. When he’s not touring, composing or recording, he can be found in music classrooms around the country, conducting master classes, workshops and lecture/demonstrations. At the age of 82, Billy Taylor remains vigorously dedicated to nurturing jazz and creating new opportunities for artists.

Almost 300 alumni and friends joined UMD for a celebration in early May at the Summit Brewery in St. Paul. The UMD Alumni Association put on a wonderful party complete with Summit brews donated by Summit Brewery, hors d’oeuvres, brewery tours and the latest news from UMD.


Bill Shipley ’66 welcomed the TwinCities Gay Men’s Chorus to UMD this May on behalf of the new alumni group, Q&A: Queer Alumni and Allies. The concert raised over $2,500 for the UMD Cruden-Riggs Scholarship Fund.


The UMD Weber Music Hall, which opened in 2002, is named for Mary Ann and Ronald Weber in honor of major gifts they made toward the design and completion of the building. The couple met while attending UMD in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Mary Ann, a Cloquet native, attended UMD on a piano scholarship. She is involved in several civic and cultural organizations and is a current member of the UMD Chancellor’s Council.
Ron grew up in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood and graduated from UMD in 1952 with a business degree. An avid angler, Ron was introduced in 1959 to a Rapala lure while he was working as an independent fishing tackle representative. Ron traveled to Finland and convinced the Rapala family to move from their home-based business to large scale production. Ron financed the first Rapala factory in Finland, and he imported and distributed millions of lures through Normark Rapala Group, a company he co-founded in 1960 in the Twin Cities. In the 1990s, Ron sold Normark Rapala Group to the Rapala family interests in Finland. Currently, Ron is involved in several business investments including several in Duluth. The Webers live in Edina, Minnesota.


Eric Tobias Johnson, ’02, of Superior, died in January, 2004. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in jazz studies. Eric was an active guitar player, playing in many bands in Duluth. He was a member of Beth Yeshua Messianic Congregation in Duluth, Chi Alpha, and Intervarsity Christian group.
Eric Johnson was only 26 years old when he died of cancer. He had battled with a fatal blood disease when he was a child and received a bone marrow transplant. At the time of his death, he was the world’s longest living survivor of an unrelated bone marrow transplant. His medical experience led the way for countless others to have a chance at life. In spite of these odds, Eric became one of UMD’s great guitar players. His handicaps never defeated him. He left a great legacy for both students with or without a disability to excel with what they are given. To honor that spirit, Eric’s family has established a scholarship. The Eric Tobias Johnson Music Scholarship will be awarded each year to a deserving UMD
student who is highly motivated and serious about music.

On Friday May 7, 2004, the Department of Geological Sciences celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Depot in Duluth. Over 210 alumni and friends attended, along with many of the faculty who taught through the years. The event was planned to coincide with the Institute on Lake Superior Geology’s annual meeting which was also being held in Duluth. For those of you who came, thanks so much for making it special. Shown here are faculty and faculty emeritus. Front Row (l-r): Nigel Wattrus, Tom Johnson, Vicki Hansen, Christina Gallup, Erik Brown, Dave Darby, Dick Ojakangas. Middle Row: John Swenson, Penny Morton, Charlie Matsch, Tim Holst. Back row: John Goodge, John Green, Don Davidson, Ron Morton, James Grant, Howard Mooers, Tim Demko. For those of you who were unable to visit with us, check the department’s web page,, and you will be able to see pictures from the event. A great time was had by all..

— Susan Beasy Latto was a contributing writer.

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