University of Minnesota Alumni Association

Alumni Stories

U Honors an electrifying Alumnus

Earl Bakken's field-shaping legacy

The University of Minnesota has renamed two health centers in honor of Earl Bakken (B.E.E. ’48) in recognition of his support of the University and his field-shaping legacy. The centers will now be called the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center and the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing.

Bakken founded Medtronic, Inc., one of the world’s largest medical device development companies, shortly after graduating from the U in electrical engineering in 1948. Among his many significant innovations was his work with University of Minnesota heart surgeon C. Walton Lillehei (B.S. ’39, M.D. ’41) to create the first battery-operated, wearable pacemaker. Bakken also founded the Bakken Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate in Minneapolis that offers dynamic exhibit experiences and industry-leading STEM-focused education programs. 

The Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center is a program under the Institute for Engineering in Medicine that combines research, education, and training focused on medical devices. The center supports researchers through the process of moving devices from concept to market and also trains the next generation of innovators.

Bakken, 93, has a unique appreciation for both the art and science of health care, as demonstrated by his longstanding support for the University’s Center for Spirituality & Healing, a center focused on research, outreach and education of integrative health and well-being. He was an early mentor for the center’s founder and director, Mary Jo Kreitzer (Ph.D. ’90) and he continues to be a strong advocate for integrative approaches to health and healing.   

“Mr. Bakken has inspired us to think bigger, to try to fulfill the immense potential we have to improve the health and well-being of people and communities around the world,” says Kreitzer.

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