University of Minnesota Alumni Association


From the President

Proud of the U of M Family

Joan T.A. Gabel

At the end of my President’s Report at each U of M Board of Regents meeting, it has become a happy practice to highlight members of our University family whose work, impact, or accomplishments make us #UMNProud. We also include a video highlight, which you may also have seen shared thanks to the Alumni Association team. 

While these shout-outs represent just a small sample of our impact and reach, each month there seems to be a countless number of U of M alumni representing the University on the national and global stage with great distinction. 

Over the last year, we highlighted College of Science and Engineering alumnus and Professor Paul Dauenhauer’s (Ph.D. ’08) recognition as a MacArthur Fellow, also referred to as a “Genius Grant.” He was joined in the 2020 MacArthur cohort by Minnesota native and College of Education and Human Development Professor Damien Fair—a representation of the unique and robust creativity of our faculty. 

We also spotlighted the work of our research enterprise. Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, research and development expenditures for FY 2019 exceeded $1 billion for the first time in University history, followed by another record-breaking year in FY 2020. Over the last year we’ve seen transformational work in areas from combatting invasive species to inventing technologies that will make recycling mixed plastic easier, to helping farmers make better crop input decisions to maximizing the benefits of investing in urban nature. In particular, we noted the groundbreaking efforts by U of M alumni and researchers like Brian Steffenson (B.S. ’80, M.S. ’83), our Lieberman-Okinow Endowed Chair of Cereal Disease Resistance. In collaboration with scientists from Australia, the U.K., and Denmark, he helped develop a breakthrough gene technology that creates wheat crops with “exceptional resistance” to a fungal disease that threatens wheat around the globe. This important discovery builds upon the groundbreaking work and recent 50th anniversary of our alumnus Norman Borlaug (B.S. ’37, M.S. ’41, Ph.D. ’42) receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his research in hybridizing wheat to increase crop yields. 

We also highlighted the incredible life and impact of U of M alumnus, former U.S. vice president, 1984 Democratic nominee for president, and the namesake of our Law School building, the Honorable Walter Mondale (B.A. ’51, J.D. ’56), whom the world lost in April. His important legacy was seen in the next generation of law graduates who passed the Minnesota bar exam their first time at a 96.3 rate in July—the highest in the state. 

We also celebrated athletic excellence, from the eight current or former Gophers who competed in the Tokyo Olympics, and our four alumni who competed in the Paralympic Games, to Rashod Bateman, the first Gopher football player to be selected in the NFL first round in 15 years. And we highlighted the alumna and longest-tenured coach in the history of Gopher Athletics, Terry Ganley (B.S. ’79), who announced her retirement after 44 seasons with the swimming and diving programs. I was proud to join Coach Ganley at the University’s 2021 Homecoming Parade, where she served as Grand Marshal, and to highlight her incredible impact on countless student-athletes here and around the globe, as well as her leadership. 

In this spirit, it was wonderful to see so many of you at Homecoming and to hear in person your stories of how much the Maroon and Gold means to you and how much pride you have in our University. 

Thank you for inspiring so many among our alumni family who are changing the world on a daily basis. Your countless acts of service instill gratitude in all of us. And I look forward to continuing to share your incredible world-changing work at upcoming Board of Regents meetings in the months and years ahead. 

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