University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Editor's Note

Living Through Change

I’d be willing to bet most people today would exhaustedly agree that our world has undergone such a swift change that we barely recognize it. Our lives have been upended, and it feels like we never saw it coming.

In this case, abrupt change has been thrust upon us. It’s been propelled by the pandemic in our midst; exacerbated by an interminable, impossibly contentious political season; and made more complex by a long overdue focus on racial justice. As a result, some of us now feel trapped in a relentless and unforgiving version of “lather, rinse, repeat,” where yesterday bleeds into today, only to reappear tomorrow. An eerie sameness pervades, punctuated only by new worries.

And yet, we’re still getting up and getting on with it, be that with work or parenting or simply continuing to put one foot in front of the other while we live through the greatest change most of us will ever see.

In this issue, we look at the idea of change from a variety of angles. In “Are We Closer to Fine?”, we consider the impact this new world is having on our daily life, from work-at-home travails to the unemployment crisis to the very real problems involved in simply coping. We also offer insight into what makes life so hard right now and provide tips to help us get through the upcoming winter.

And while change can certainly be a disruptive force from without, it can also be a force from within that allows us to reshape the world.

In our cover story, “That Championship Season,” we take a look back at the impact Gophers Head Coach Murray Warmath had on college football in the early ‘60s. Warmath actively recruited athletes of color at a time when that was a controversial idea; forged a lifetime friendship with the first Black All-American quarterback, Sandy Stephens; and created a team that went from worst to first in a season and to two Rose Bowls. To do this, Warmath had to fight off critics, naysayers, and racism, bringing constructive change to an entire sport. His story makes for a riveting read.

We also spotlight alumni who are themselves agents of change. A former Teacher of the Year tells us what it’s like to educate middle-schoolers online during a pandemic. We profile alumni pursuing cutting-edge research and improving life for those with disabilities. And, in the case of little-known 1920 U of M alumnus Alfred B. Xuma, we remember the profound effect he had on civil rights in South Africa, including bringing a man named Nelson Mandela into the fight.

Mandela himself once said that education remains the most powerful weapon we have to change the world. At the U of M, that sentiment remains a guiding light, faithfully put into practice by alumni and University scholars every day, even as the world convulses around us.

Kelly O’Hara Dyer can be reached at

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