Director receives award for building U fund raising

Dan Berglund

When friends, colleagues and family converged Friday night to recognize Bob Odegard, the man most people deem responsible for building the University’s fund-raising program, the guest of honor said he felt nothing but “humbled.”
“It’s honor enough just to feel I’ve had a part in this,” Odegard said, “but to receive this distinction is far more than I could have imagined.”
Odegard received several standing ovations as he was presented an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from College of Liberal Arts Dean Steve Rosenstone and Board of Regents Chairwoman Patricia Spence in front of the standing-room-only crowd of 180 people.
The degree, rarely given by the University, recognizes Odegard’s role in changing fund raising at the University from a four-person, $14.8 million operation in 1970 to its present effort, Campaign Minnesota, which seeks to raise $1.3 billion before 2003.
It was an honor Odegard’s colleagues said reflects his personality as much as his business sense.
“It’s a rare breed that can go through life with no enemies and only friends,” said Dale Olseth, who sits on the University of Minnesota Foundation board of directors. This characteristic undoubtedly helped Odegard’s fund-raising endeavors, he added.
“Without Bob Odegard’s involvement, there would be no Minnesota campaign and there would be no Gateway,” he said.
A native of Princeton, Minn., Odegard graduated from the University in 1942 with a degree in agricultural economics. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Odegard returned to Princeton to manage the family potato farm and automobile dealership. During that time, he also served briefly in the Minnesota Legislature.
In 1966, he moved to Minneapolis to work for the investment firm now known as Dain Rauscher. He rejoined the University in 1970 as associate vice president for development and alumni relations.
Gerald Fischer, president and chief executive officer of the University of Minnesota Foundation, said that when Odegard joined the University in 1970, little effort was given to collecting private donations. Odegard changed attitudes about fund raising in both the community and the University itself, he said.
Since then, Fischer said, Odegard has played a part in acquiring the necessary funding for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Law School, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Weisman Art Museum, Carlson School of Management and McNamara Alumni Center/University of Minnesota Gateway. He also spearheaded the Campaign Minnesota, a successful fund-raising venture in the mid-1980s that raised $365 million and created 121 endowed faculty positions.
“It was Bob’s leadership that brought the University of Minnesota’s fund-raising efforts from a fledgling operation to among the ranks of the most successful among public institutions,” Fischer said.
Odegard said he feels his entire life has been connected to the University in some way, whether the connection was business-, health- or education-related.
“My family and I have had a lifelong love affair with the University,” he added.

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