MN governor credited with ‘Miracle’ dies

A fervent advocate of education, Wendell Anderson led a storied career as a politician and regent.

Jessica Hart

Wendell Anderson, a former Minnesota Governor, U.S. Senator and University of Minnesota regent and alumnus, died Sunday at the age of 83.

A first-generation college student, Anderson was the son of a truck driver and a descendent of a Swedish immigrant who grew up on the east side of St. Paul in a working-class family. After high school, he attended the University of Minnesota.

“He had a wonderful university experience and a great undergraduate experience,” said Regent Thomas Devine.

Anderson played for the Gophers men’s hockey team and was a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity member during his undergraduate studies. He went on to the University’s Law School and won a silver medal on the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team in 1956.

Anderson — a popular political figure — served as Minnesota’s governor from 1971 to 1976. As governor, he was credited with securing the “Minnesota Miracle of 1971,” a reformation of public school and local government financing. He was even featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1973.

Anderson was also an active member in the Swedish Council of America even after his terms as governor and U.S. Senator ended, Devine said.

Putting students first

Anderson pushed to expand campus housing and increase the number of students as a regent. He always searched for ways to improve University life and believed more housing would increase students’ participation in school activities, Devine said.

He was involved in the plan to build Yudof Hall and was instrumental in the development of the University’s Carlson School of Management, Devine said.

Devine said Anderson often repeated the phrase, “Put the student first.”

He was passionate about student education and ensuring Minnesota students had access to a world-class institution, said Regent Darrin Rosha. Anderson and Rosha served together as board members from 1989 to 1995.

“It was exciting to serve on a board with so many distinguished characters,” Rosha said. “[Anderson] had a wonderful, resonate voice with a specific speaking style.”

Rosha said Anderson believed in a state’s success through it’s obligation to education and that the denial of University applicants was troubling to him because it stopped future students from getting educated.

“[Anderson’s] big issue was making sure … that Minnesota youth has access to our great land grant university,” Rosha said, adding Anderson credited his accomplished career to the education he received at the University.

“He really credited his University education with being so critical to have opportunities to be leader and to make an impact,” Rosha said. “Work hard, pursue your interests, achieve success, but always give back to the community.”