IT banquet proceeds fund alumni scholarship

Kane Loukas

The Grand Ballroom of the Minneapolis Marriott was decked out with ice sculptures and a small army of black-tied wait staff for the Institute of Technology’s 12th annual Science and Technology Banquet.
Led by guest speaker Richard D. McCormick, chairman, president and chief executive officer of U S West, Inc., 33 companies and several University departments and offices showed their support for the IT. The banquet helped raise cash for the college’s Alumni Society Scholarship Fund. It was also intended to strengthen the relationship between the University and its supporters in the business arena.
“At heart, it’s a fund-raiser,” said Paul Sorenson, IT director of communications and an event organizer. “We try to create something that will be of interest to students and companies.”
Few students attended the $600 per table banquet. However, companies and University units fulfilled the banquet’s role as a fund-raiser. With more than 500 attendees, this year’s banquet is expected to top the $10,000 raised by the 1997 banquet, said Kristine Kosek, director of alumni relations.
Aside from drumming up funds, the banquet gave IT faculty and staff members an opportunity to make connections and plan for the future.
“There are lots of people here that we don’t often get to meet,” said William Seyfried Jr., head of the Department of Geology and Geophysics. “The business support here ultimately shows up as research support and scholarships.”
Confined to cocktail hour and dinner, networking and socializing was left to the evening’s speakers.
After opening remarks by H. Ted Davis, IT dean, University President Mark Yudof took the stage. After enlivening the room with a variety of engineer and lawyer jokes, Yudof focused his brief speech on the future of the University and IT.
He paid particular attention to the importance of advertising the achievements of the college.
“We have lots of fire,” Yudof said. “We need to make sure there is more smoke, that people understand the wonderful things that this dean and these department chairs and this faculty have accomplished.”
To great applause, Yudof also voiced his optimism in the realization of the school’s Digital Technology Institute. He then stumped for the enactment of the molecular and cellular biology initiative, DNA projects and agricultural initiatives.
McCormick, a one-time Twin Cities resident, complimented the University and offered advice for the future. In his speech, he specifically called for faculty and staff members to put effort into “selling our science” and getting younger students excited about technology.
Speaking on the staffing problems in the technological sector, McCormick said, “One of the reasons for these shortages is that you and I have not spent enough time in school: elementary school, middle school, high school. Talking about our work, enthusing kids about science and math.”
McCormick mixed his advice with praise as he highlighted what he saw at the banquet and during his tour of the University earlier that day.
“The University of Minnesota is probably unique in its ability to relate to the business community,” McCormick said. “I don’t think there’s anything like the Twin Cities anywhere in the country in terms of the relationship between the town and the gown.”
The speeches were positive, but no speaker left out suggestions for improvement. In that spirit, Yudof balanced reality with hopefulness.
“The University cannot do everything,” Yudof said. “It can’t be first in every area. But what we can try to do is be smart about picking our strategy for the 21st century, and I think part of that strategy, a big part, is the IT.”