Happy Birthday To U

by Patrick Hayes

The University kicked off its 150th anniversary celebration Sunday at Sylvan Park in the small town of Lanesboro, Minn., with more than 1,000 people in attendance.
The event is the first in a yearlong series highlighting the University’s legacy by getting the entire state involved in its sesquicentennial celebration.
University President Mark Yudof, members of the Board of Regents and all four campus mascots celebrated the University’s sesquicentennial, thanking the citizens of Minnesota for supporting the University as a great land-grant research university for the past 150 years.
“The University is very well cared for by the state of Minnesota,” Yudof said.
Patricia Spence, Board of Regents chairwoman, reminded the crowd of the significant contributions the University has made, not just to the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro areas but to the entire state. “The University is your university in every sense of the word,” she said.
Spence added that the University’s leading kidney-transplant center and inventions such as the in-flight recorder and retractable seat belt were among many in a long list of “wonderful achievements that can be traced back to the people of the University community.”
Lanesboro, about 180 miles southeast of the Twin Cities, was chosen as the site for the kickoff event to emphasize a statewide celebration, drawing attention away from the sometimes domineering Twin Cities campus, said Susan Ahn, public relations representative.
While Yudof reinforced the decision by talking about the significance of the University’s three outstate campuses, the crowd was about 2,000 less than what University officials had expected.
“These research, outreach and teaching campuses preserve the great economy and quality of life for the state of Minnesota,” Yudof said of the Crookston, Morris and Duluth campuses.
He added Morris could be the best public, national liberal arts college in the country.
“Undergraduate education is the foundation to everything else,” Yudof said, talking about the University’s curriculum and small class sizes. “We need to ensure that this tradition of excellence is preserved and supported.”
Alumni and local residents came out to watch the kickoff.
For Arney Bigbee, a member of the Rochester chapter of the Alumni Association, the University played a tremendous role in his life.
Originally he wasn’t sure if he could afford to attend college. But his high school counselor encouraged him to apply for a scholarship. He did and received a $300 scholarship each quarter.
“That was enough to get me started,” he said.
Back then, a mere $290 covered tuition, books and fees for the University, he said. Despite the assistance, Bigbee still worked 20 to 25 hours each week. In 1965, he graduated from the College of Education.

An eventful day
The morning began with a traditional Yudof pancake breakfast with his wife, Judy, at the Chat ‘N Chew Cafe. Attendees included Lanesboro Mayor John Brose, Fillmore County Commissioner Duane Bakke, Lanesboro Art Council President Michael McGrath and National Alumni Association President Nancy Lindahl.
Over breakfast, Yudof discussed farming conditions, farm prices and medical care, because of the importance each holds to the state and University, Yudof said.
In the afternoon, the Rochester Alumni Association put on an ice cream social for the guests, complete with a variety of homemade desserts.
In the evening, the University’s School of Music Opera Theatre, along with a local Lanesboro church choir, put on a production of “The Tender Land,” an opera by Aaron Copland.
The opera, directed by Vern Sutton, is about a Midwestern farm family in the 1930s.
“I always thought it would be fun to do (an opera) on a farm, out on the open air with the cows mooing and the barn and the birds singing,” Sutton said.
Most of the sesquicentennial celebrations will be in conjunction with other University events. During homecoming week, the University will have a birthday party on the West Bank and a fireworks display the night before the football game.
The University also has special plans during Founder’s Week in late February. The Bell Museum will have a group of actors dressed in 1850s attire, accompanied by the Minnesota landscape of the period.
Weisman Art Museum will also open its “Cabinet of Wonders,” displaying a variety of objects from individual collections across the campus.
The week climaxes with a birthday party at the state Capitol. The President’s Anniversary Tribute will be held Feb. 23, honoring past faculty members and presidents.
The week culminates with a concert at Ted Mann Concert Hall and a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.
For the grand finale in June 2001, the University hopes to bring the Minnesota Orchestra back to Northrop Auditorium where it used to regularly play, said Sue Eastman, sesquicentennial coordinator. There will also be a fireworks display on the banks of the Mississippi River.
“Part of the sesquicentennial tradition is to bring back, find and reinvigorate old traditions,” Eastman said.