The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth

Volume 16 • Number 1 • Winter 1999

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Honoring the Finest - These UMD Faculty and Staff are Remembered for their Outstanding Contributions.

(L-R) Top: Joseph E. Duncan, Ralph A. Romano, and Olga Lakela
A. Dean Hendrickson, Herbert Sorenson, and Glenn Nelson

When alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of UMD fondly remember their college days or their association with the campus, it is usually a special person that readily comes to mind. The memories of some of UMD's outstanding faculty and staff are perpetuated by endowed scholarships, funds or awards. A few examples of treasured members of the UMD community whose memories have been perpetuated in this way include: Joseph E. Duncan, Ralph A. Romano, Olga Lakela, Herbert Sorenson, A. Dean Hendrickson, and Glenn C. Nelson.


The Joseph E. Duncan Scholarship

Who can forget English Professor Joseph E. Duncan? No one who knew him! Duncan, who began his career at UMD in 1954, excelled in teaching and research. He pursued both with enthusiasm, indeed passion. Those who remember him,realize that he did not care about material things such as clothing or furniture. He cared about people and ideas. Students and friends could always go to Duncan for good thoughtful advice. He always cared! Eager to share his contagious enthusiasm for teaching, literature, theater, music, and good causes, most notably Amnesty International, he was an outstanding teacher and a true friend.

Few knew his love for wilderness adventure. How many people with his physical limitations, especially his restricted vision, would venture precarious mountain trails or rugged Boundary Waters portages? Duncan wanted to experience everything whether it was a literary manuscript in a library, an opera in Minneapolis, a play at UMD, or a moose in the North Woods.

Most of all, one remembers Duncan's love of literature and his profound desire to share his insights with his students. His love of literature was also expressed in his research and resulted in outstanding publications including his magisterial Milton's Earthly Paradise: A Historial Study of Eden (1972).

Today Duncan is remembered by a scholarship established in his honor after his death in 1991. What a fitting tribute! Professor Martin Bock, Head of the Department of English, reports that "the Joseph Duncan Scholarship is awarded to the outstanding junior or senior English major who demonstrates a commitment to the study of literature." Recently, the award has been given to a non-traditional student who moved from a career in journalism to the study of literature and to a native American poet who, after completing his English major, will continue his career pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing.

English Professor Joseph E. Duncan's study of literature
culminated in the publication of a book on Milton's Paradise Lost.


Ralph A. Romano Memorial

The name Ralph A. Romano is forever associated with UMD athletics. A UMD graduate, Romano received the Phi Delta Epsilon Medal of Merit for outstanding contributions to collegiate journalism for his work on the STATESMAN and earned three varsity hockey letters as Bulldog goaltender.

After military service and a stint as a sports reporter, Romano returned to his alma mater and played a vital role promoting athletics in a number of key posts: sports information director (1959-1964), athletic business manager (1959-1964), assistant athletic director (1964-1968), head hockey coach (1959-1968), and director of athletics (1968-1983).

Romano helped change UMD hockey forever when he took his squad out of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, scheduled games with stronger teams, and eventually gained membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), a major conference in college hockey. He was also a key figure in the negotiations between the WCHA and Hockey East that resulted in an interlocking schedule agreement that began in the 1984-1985 season.

As UMD's director of Athletics, Romano was instrumental in developing the women's athletic program. He also worked to obtain funds to renovate and expand athletic facilities. He continued as athletic director until his untimely death in 1983. Head Hockey Coach Mike Sertich expressed the thoughts of many fans thrilled by the success of UMD's hockey program: "The one regret that keeps popping up is that Ralph wasn't here to see it all happen." Chancellor Robert L. Heller, proud of UMD's championship-winning hockey team, reminded fans that the success of UMD's athletics would not have been possible without the dreams and hard work of the late athletic director, Ralph Romano.

The athletic programs that Romano was so instrumental in creating increased school spirit, attracted students and gave UMD national visibility. In 1988 Romano was posthumously honored at dedication ceremonies when the Physical Education Building was renamed Romano Gymnasium. Romano's outstanding contributions are also recognized by a memorial fund which is used for scholarships and programs.This is a most suitable recognition of the Romano legacy.

Former Athletic Director Ralph Romano, remembered for bringing Bulldog Hockey into the WCHA,
was an outstanding hockey player, writer, and coach.

The Olga Lakela Fund

The Olga Lakela Fund is a perfect example of a faculty member endowing an important program that enriches the campus. Professor Lakela, a department head, and a distinguished botanist, taught and researched at Duluth State Teachers College and UMD from 1935 to 1958. Impressed with Lakela, Raymond Gibson, the last president of Duluth State Teachers College and the first provost of UMD, remembers that when he asked her what budget she needed for laboratory experiments she replied that she collected her flora from the woods, fields and streams of Minnesota. Lakela, who earned her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, wrote extensively about Minnesota plants and developed an impressive herbarium. Professor Emeritus Theron O. Odlaug has vivid memories of her intense dedication to her research and the loving care with which she developed her collection of dried-plant specimens. After her retirement from UMD, Lakela continued her research at the University of South Florida in Tampa and helped to create a tropical Florida herbarium.

Lakela's bequest to UMD, the institution she served so well during her distinguished career in Duluth, has provided an enduring legacy to her work. Professor David J. Schimpf of the UMD biology department reports that her bequest has established the Olga Lakela Fund which maintains her collection, together with substantial additions from other botanists, and supports botanical research at UMD. The fund enables the herbarium to purchase new technical literature, funds research travel, subsidizes publications, and supports the creation of a computerized database. The herbarium serves the needs of botanists, natural resource agencies, and the general public. The Olga Lakela Fund is a tangible remembrance of a talented faculty member who pursued her discipline with zeal and made important contributions to UMD.

Botanist Olga Lakela expressed her appreciation for Minesota plants by developing the UMD herbarium


A. Dean Hendrickson and Math Manipulation

  One of the most remarkable aspects of A. Dean Hendrickson's career was his insistence on using materials to explain math to elementary students. At first there was resistance to the theory that touching and exploring shapes help illustrate primary math concepts. However, after elementary school teachers took Hendrickson's 24-credit math teaching series, he made the resisters into believers. The project was part of an early 1980s National Science Foundation Grant that gave teachers free UMD classes. They learned how to teach math by manipulating objects. He was the first teacher to introduce the theory to area educators, and once it caught on, the process was used successfully in dozens of schools throughout the northland.

Hendrickson's math manipulation work was based on earlier research. In the late 1970s he received a National Science Foundation grant to write a handbook on the way children learn using the theories of Jean Piaget. Hendrickson recognized that the math manipulation concept was based on Piaget's study of brain development. Teaching math by object manipulation followed the problem-solving, language comprehension, and visual thinking progression that Piaget outlined. In the handbook, Hendrickson detailed how one- and two-year-old children learn by holding and touching objects. As they grow, children begin to see the object in their mind's eye and as the brain develops the process becomes more and more sophisticated.

Hendrickson's third National Science Foundation grant was to write a K - 6 curriculum on math. Over several years he field-tested his exercises at schools throughout Northern Minnesota. He completed the project for the K-6 curriculum in 1990, and a number of schools around the nation use this for their mathematics curriculum. He worked to find a publisher, but died before he he was able to publish it. His widow, June Kreutzkampf, has all of his research and still gets occasional calls for copies of Hendrickson's projects.

Hendrickson's career was long and varied. He started teaching with a K - 12 license and he took on all challenges: elementary school, high school, social studies, math and even coaching football. From Tower to Embarrass, Montana to Rochester, Henrickson was loved by his students. After 17 years in public school, Chancellor Heller persuaded Hendrickson to sign on at UMD for what turned out to be a 28-year ground-breaking journey.

His colleagues remember him for the work he did to bring the faculty union to the Duluth campus. He was quick to fire off an opinionated letter on any topic. Terri Shannon, head of the Department of Education said, "He expected high quality work, and he had no patience for anyone who wouldn't give 100 percent. He was an excellent professor."

In a fitting tribute to this "born teacher," the A. Dean Hendrickson Memorial Math Teacher Award was established by Hendrickson's family and friends after his death in 1996. A scholarship was awarded to a student a few months after the scholarship was established and now, because of recent gifts to the fund, two scholarships are awarded each year.

"Born Teacher" A. Dean Hendrickson pioneered a method of teaching math during his 28 years at UMD


The Herbert Sorenson Family Scholarship

The list of UMD scholarships has a recent addition that honors a Duluth State Teachers College president, Herbert Sorenson. In 1998, Sorenson's daughter, Barbara Sorenson Hulka and her husband Jerry, attended a reunion of Laboratory School students. While in Duluth, Hulka met with officials at UMD to create The Herbert Sorenson Family Scholarship.

The establishment of this scholarship provides an opportunity to look at the tenure of President Sorenson and some exciting developments in the history of UMD.

Herbert Sorenson, an associate professor of education at the University of Minnesota, was inaugurated as president of the Duluth State Teachers College in 1938. During the following 8 years, he insisted on high professional standards and worked to expand the scope of the campus to include a liberal arts curriculum. His ultimate goal was to transform the college into a branch of the University of Minnesota.

These high ideals and far-sighted opinions created controversy on campus. Some faculty opposed Sorenson's goals and felt threatened by the new standards that were being set. The State Teachers College Board, afraid of losing their Duluth campus, drew up charges against Sorenson. The faculty assembled into warring camps. The DSTC students demonstrated a tremendous show of support for Sorenson by shutting the school down with a strike. Even though the student body, many faculty members, and a contingent of prominent Duluth citizens rallied in Sorenson's defense, he still resigned.

Minnesotans soon saw Sorenson's vision take on a life of its own. A flood of G.I.s returning from World War II had put pressure on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus. Negotiations and political maneuvering pushed the U of M Board of Regents to accept the Duluth campus. The State Legislature passed an act signed by the governor that enabled the University of Minnesota Duluth Branch. On July 1, 1947, Sorenson's dream, the University of Minnesota Duluth Branch campus had become a reality.

After his presidency at the Duluth State Teachers College, Sorenson returned to the classroom and research. He was promoted to distinguished professor at the University of Kentucky and served there until 1966. He taught for four additional years at the University of South Florida until he retired in 1971. He wrote 11 textbooks and made ten educational films on psychology and education. One of his textbooks has been translated into several foreign languages and has been used on three continents. Herbert Sorenson passed away in 1995.

Barbara Sorenson Hulka can remember the day when her father mentioned a scholarship for UMD students. Sorenson, at the age of 94, was recalling his own college years. "Father was sitting on the couch, and he simply and quietly said that it would be very nice if we could establish a scholarship." Sorenson had come from Dawson, Minnesota, a small farming community. "His family had very little and his first years away at school were difficult. He cared so much about his students and he was especially concerned about the scholastically gifted who had some need."

The Herbert Sorenson Family Scholarship made its first two awards last summer.

Herbert Sorenson served as president of the Duluth State Teachers College from 1938-1946.


Conversation in Clay: Glenn Nelson

Glenn Nelson taught ceramics in the UMD Department of Art from 1965 until his retirement in 1975. Even though his international reputation as a potter, an artist and an educator brought praise to UMD, Nelson always believed that his most important work was the guidance and inspiration he gave to his students. His love of teaching and his dedication to his craft drove him to write Ceramics: A Potter's Handbook, a pioneering ceramic teaching text which remains a classic reference in the field. As his friend and fellow potter Orazio Fumagalli said, "Nelson was not satisfied with the book once it was published. He kept going back to improve it and enlarge it." Between 1960 and 1983, five editions were published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston and the book was used on over 200 campuses across the country.

Nelson's own influences and inspiration grew out of the functional clay tradition of the 1940s and 50s. His style forged new ground by blending Bauhaus attributes, Scandinavian elemental design considerations and a sensitivity to Asian ideas.

In 1992, the Tweed Museum of Art presented a major retrospective exhibition of Nelson's work. Nelson wouldn't consider the exhibition unless his students were included. The exhibition, A Tribute Exhibition: Glenn C. Nelson, included over 100 pieces created by Nelson, his students and pieces from his collection. After the exhibition closed, Nelson donated his own pieces and his collection to the Tweed Museum of Art.

The students who participated in the show include Duluthians Robert DeArmond, Steve Williams, John Steffl, Cheryl Husby and Bob Husby. In addition, Bob Eckles, Ashland, Wisconsin, Warren MacKenzie, Stillwater, Minnesota, and Walter Hyleck, Berea, Kentucky contributed work for the event.

If all that inspiration and direction weren't enough, Professor Glenn Nelson began awarding art student scholarships at UMD in 1983, and he formally established the Edith M. Nelson Art Scholarship in memory of his wife in 1989. Nelson continues to make contributions to this scholarship fund from his home in sunny Nokomis, Florida, and UMD hopes to someday have him back on campus again.

Glenn Nelson in his studio when he taught at UMD. Nelson still keeps in touch
with UMD from his home in Nokomis, Florida

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