The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth

Volume 17 • Number 1 • Winter 2000

 

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HOMETOWN HEROES


Pictured (from left to right) Top: George Himango , David Bretting , Chad Gillard
      Bottom: Yvonne Prettner Solon and Charles Leibfried

 

George Himango

After completing a 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam, George F. Himango returned to Duluth and enrolled at UMD. He was troubled by the small number of American Indians as well as the lack of an American Indian presence in a university located at such a short distance from his reservation, Fond du Lac. Like most "can-do" people, Himango welcomed a challenge. With characteristic energy he recruited a dozen friends and convinced them to join him at UMD. Himango and his friends then organized a program in American Indian studies.

Himango remembers the efforts to establish the Anishinabe Club, for which he served as coordinator and president. Himango has especially fond memories of Professor Timothy G. Roufs, his academic advisor, whose encouragement and support were so important to his success. He assisted Roufs and Ruth Myers, who laid the foundations for the American Indian Studies Program. Graduating in 1974 with a major in sociology and minors in anthropology and psychology, Himango continued to pursue his educational goals at UMD, earning a master's degree in educational administration in 1983. He said, "Today, when I visit campus, I feel a sense of pride in what Indian people have accomplished." He said he is pleased that the programs he helped create are still serving the UMD and area communities.

Himango made a difference at UMD and now he continues to use the skills honed at UMD to serve others, both in his position as Director of Desegregation/Home Bound Programs with the Duluth Public Schools and in his volunteer work.

Where does this profound desire to serve and give back to the community come from?

It comes from his grandmother. Though raised in poverty, Himango said, "I was blessed with a grandmother who shared love, enthusiasm for life, a rich sense of her Ojibwa Indian culture and a strong system of moral values." As the first grandson, he was expected to play a leadership role, develop a sense of moral responsibility and learn to take the risk of helping others. His beloved grandmother, who lived until age 98, inculcated a strong moral sense by her example and her teachings. He said, "She urged me to remember and cherish my Indian heritage." While she respected and took pride in Himango's achievements -- such as winning the Student Association Bulldog Award at UMD -- she cautioned that he must never lose sight of who he was and where he came from.

Determined to practice his grandmother's advice, Himango keeps the trail of his life in mind -- where he has been and where he is going. He also practices his grandmother's philosophy of social responsibility. Success is not measured by wealth, but rather by how many people can be helped. An Anishinabe Club member of the early 1970s remembered, "He used his strengths to encourage us to stay in school, and made the Anishinabe Club a place we could gather for support and friendship." That reputation continues to this day.

Himango is especially sensitive to people at risk. During the Vietnam War, he served on the aircraft carrier America and was part of a pilot rescue team -- he is still rescuing people today. His volunteer work with organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, Critical Friends, and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College focuses on at risk people struggling with backgrounds of poverty.

UMD empowered Himango to use his successes to give back to the community. He is an effective, caring leader who still follows the trail blazed by his grandmother.

-- Neil Storch and Linda Grover

David Bretting

The city of Ashland, Wisconsin, has undergone a renewal in the last few years. It is emerging as a progressive, vital, regional, urban center in northern Wisconsin. Many of those changes have been due to the efforts the Bretting family, and of a 1984 graduate of the UMD School of Business and Economics, David Bretting.

David Bretting is the vice president and chief operating officer of C. G. Bretting Manufacturing Co., Inc., which was established in 1890 by his great grandfather. This international company is the world leader in the design and manufacture of paper converting equipment.

For over 100 years, the Bretting Family has had a history of giving back to the Ashland community and the region. David's mother and father -- Tad and Barbara Bretting -- instilled in their children that volunteering and being an active part of the community was not optional, but an expectation of mature, responsible individuals.

David Bretting and his wife -- who have three children -- are active in the Little League program and girls' basketball, because they believe that youth need both time and resources from adults. Additionally, Bretting is very active with the Chamber of Commerce, other community committees, and the Ashland area Elks organization, which operates the golf course.

As northern Wisconsin and the city of Ashland were facing the closing of a major employer, there was concern that the region and the city would be negatively impacted. However, with leadership provided by David Bretting and others, Ashland decided not to maintain the status quo, but to focus on the future by retaining existing businesses, and recruiting new businesses. That commitment to the future is paying off, and Ashland expresses a positive, fresh, revitalized attitude and appearance.

A new $1.9 million city park is being created. According to an Ashland Daily Press reporter, the project had been planned for some time, but had dragged because of a lack of funding. After the Bretting family made a $550,000 donation, others were inspired to make contributions and the project got off the ground. David Bretting said, "The only way this was going to get done is to have someone step forward. It's all about sharing community spirit." Stepping forward, taking the lead, and then sharing the credit with others is a pattern Bretting and his family have continuously used.

Bretting's leadership and influence have resulted in an additional nine holes being added to the golf course, and the infrastructure for 60 new building lots -- for housing within the community -- to be completed. One-third of the lots have already been sold, which is having a tremendous impact on the region's housing market. There are people moving into the area, and jobs have been created for the local labor force.

 David Bretting knows the Bretting Manufacturing employees by their first names. He doesn't take credit for the leadership and work that he has done; he points to the commitment and work of others. The Ashland plant employees 477 people in the city of 8,900, and is the largest employer in the region.

David Bretting gives the credit for the company's success to his father. "It is through Tad's leadership that C. G. Bretting Manufacturing Company grew to what we know today, and developed products which enhance the availability of tissue products throughout the world." However, David Bretting is a community leader and visionary in his own right. He is having an impact on the success of the company as well as the community.

-- Elaine Hansen

Chad Gillard

On a beautiful July afternoon along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, an unlikely pair slowed their pace to a walk. Chad Gillard, a 1997 UMD alumnus, and his teen running partner, Kendale, were running the Bolder Options 5K race. They ran full force at the beginning of the race but Kendale didn't have Gillard's experience of pacing himself. So the two walked and got to know each other better, discussing school and playing football. Gillard said, "That walk was what volunteering was all about."

Gillard grew up in Kasson, Minnesota, near Rochester and graduated from UMD with a degree in industrial engineering. At the Minneapolis computer company, Seagate Technology, Inc., a manufacturer of disc drives, magnetic discs and tape drives, Gillard combines his interest in computers with his background in industrial engineering. He works on assembly line set ups and regularly flies to Thailand for two-week stints supervising the assembly line configuration.

Gillard is a runner. He runs short races and marathons. He recently ran the Chicago Marathon, the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon, and Duluth's Grandma's Marathon. He ran a marathon in Dublin, Ireland with the Leukemia Society in honor of his grandfather who died of leukemia while he was at UMD in 1994.

Last summer, one race had an interesting affect on his life. Gillard ran the Peace Keepers 5K that benefits the families of fallen policemen in Minnesota. In his runner's packet, he found a flyer that described Bolder Options, a volunteer program that matched runners with high-risk boys and girls. Bolder Options started as a Minneapolis Jaycee project that focuses on reversing the juvenile crime epidemic. Now on its own and directed by U of M Hall of Famer and former Green Bay Packer Darrel Thompson, the program matches high risk boys and girls and juvenile offenders with a suitable running or biking mentor. Together, they agree on distance goals that progressively increase the participant's stamina, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

Gillard became a mentor. "I was looking for a way to make a difference," he said. "Bolder Options seemed perfect because it combined running and spending time with kids." Bolder Options paired him with Kendale, and together they ran a 5K race. Gillard took Kendale out to buy him new running shoes, a perk of the Bolder Options program.

Though they did not win the race, they got a great prize; Gillard and Kendale became friends.    

-- Cheryl Reitan

Yvonne Prettner Solon

Yvonne Prettner Solon is known to most Duluthians as a high-profile public servant, admired for her work on the Duluth City Council. Her warm brown eager eyes, hushed tones and gentle presence invite you to fall into conversation with her. At work as a licensed psychologist in her Compass North office she laughs easily, as one who goes lightly in the world, but a visitor will soon come to see her keen qualities of mental precision and political circumspection, as well as her powers of concentration.

She said that she acknowledges the two halves of her life. "I graduated from Duluth's old Stanbrook Hall, as class valedictorian. At Stanbrook I felt protected and sheltered. I was a good student, but even though I was offered a full scholarship to college and in spite of being intimidated by sophisticated women in the work world, I went to Minneapolis to look for a job," she said. Finding no desirable jobs, she came back to Duluth to start college at St. Scholastica. She says she knew she wanted to be a psychologist/social worker, but grew up believing she should be a wife and mother. After school, she got married and expected to have a family.

The second half of her life started when she enrolled at UMD. She joined Hommey Kanter's group WINGS, which met every Wednesday for lunch, where she met mid-life women coming back to school. When she was working on her bachelor's degree, there was a special study underway in the provost's office to report on the state of women on campus. Prettner Solon took it on as an internship. "I really enjoyed the responsibility for monitoring and reporting on the provost's study," she said.

Prettner says that her venture into university politics raised her confidence and changed her life. As a graduate student, she supported her family by doing program evaluation and monitoring projects and in that capacity, she had no trouble traveling to Washington D.C., to participate in meetings and discussions.

Later, with other students, she began a group called SOTA, "Students Older than Average," which included veterans, and offered tutoring and a place to get support. She said, "We were surprised when it got to be the largest group on campus." She received her Bachelor of Social Development in 1979 and her Master of Arts in Educational Psychology in 1981.

At age 40 she dove into a life filled with volunteering and service activity. "I love committees and the excitement of debates," she said. "I have especially enjoyed working on the National League of Cities Community and Economic Development Steering Committee where community leaders from all over the country try as a group to resolve our shared problems."

Prettner Solon holds service positions with many community organizations including the Duluth City Council, Duluth Economic Development Authority, League of Minnesota Cities, National League of Cities, Miller Creek Preservation Task Force, Minnesota Property Tax Study Committee, Violence Free Duluth Advisory Council for Firearm Safety, Environmental Advisory Council, Benedictine Health Center Foundation Board of Trust, American Association of University Women, Great Lakes Aquarium/ Lake Superior Center Board of Directors, and Duluth Soft Center Technology Village Steering Committee, among others.

She said that to really live in this world we need to live fully, and that means to participate in a community. "I feel better the more immersed I am, in family and in civic responsibilities. And I believe that also means treating everybody in the best way that I can." She certainly practices what she preaches.

-- Jean Jacobsen

 

Charles Leibfried

There are those who embrace teaching as an occupation and there are those, like Charles B. (Charlie) Leibfried, who embrace it as a way of life. Leibfried is the band director at Central High School in Duluth. His mark as a civic leader and volunteer can be measured in teaching moments.

Leibfried, who graduated in 1977 with a BFA in music and a BA in education, believes that he must model what he teaches -- so he continues to practice the trumpet and perform regularly. Leibfried plays with the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, is a member of the Big Time Jazz Orchestra, and he stays busy as a free-lance performer. His mastery as a working musician enriches his teaching. The national magazine, The Jazz Times, named Leibfried's jazz band at Central High School as one of the top 10 high school jazz bands in the United States.            

"Charlie Leibfried is a gentle, strong, exemplary human being. The students, staff and parents of Central are the better for having worked with him," said Central's principal Fred Tarnowski.

Leibfried's volunteer efforts are woven into his life as a teacher and he chooses those which he believes will return the investment others have made in him. He is an active member and past president of the Minnesota Band Directors Association and is now a representative to the American School Band Organization. He readily accepts the role of supervising teacher for student teachers. His interest in the welfare of young teachers is reflected in his work with the Minnesota Band Directors Association. He participated in a workshop sponsored by MBDA for first-year teachers and he beamed when he recounted how satisfying it was to see the commitment of the young teachers who attended.

Leibfried is often invited to college classrooms to talk to music education students. "In these encounters, I and other teachers are asked to talk about what it is really like to be a teacher these days. I take so much from these engagements," he said. "It's thrilling to see the excitement of these prospective teachers and it's great for me to listen to my colleagues in these settings. I get ideas from them. I also realize in listening to them how much 'non-music' and 'non-teaching' we do; things which aren't written down anywhere." He recalled the work he does in his own classroom, "like counsel a girl who is pregnant, or work with a kid who is suicidal and you're their first contact."

Leibfried speaks highly of the faculty he encountered at UMD, especially Ruth van Appledorn. "She was my first-year music theory teacher and she scared me to death. I will never forget something she said early on. She said, 'some of you won't be back next quarter.' Although I didn't articulate it at the time, I remember thinking 'It won't be me.' " Leibfried went on to say that while he never imagined graduating, he also remembers thinking he would never quit. Before he knew it, he was donning a cap and gown. Jim Murphy, his private trumpet teacher, was the other strong influence. "He was a tremendous musician. He was, as an adult, what I wanted to be as a student."

In reflecting on volunteerism, Leibfried said, "Don't volunteer for your resume; it's better you not volunteer at all. Volunteer because you need to give back, because you want to give back." Noteworthy advice from a dedicated teacher.            

-- Linda Quanstrom

 

     

 
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