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The Minnesota Daily

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Former governor, regent dies at 95

Former Minnesota Gov. and University Board of Regents Chairman Elmer L. Andersen died Monday night. He was 95.

Andersen, whom some called the last moderate-to-liberal Republican, was governor from 1961-63. He was on the University’s Board of Regents from 1967-75, and led the board from 1972-75.

He was also a University of Minnesota Foundation trustee from 1968-88.

Friends described Andersen as insightful, warm and the greatest Minnesotan.

“He was one of a kind,” said Tom Swain, University Relations interim vice president and Andersen’s close friend.

From flying airplanes with Charles Lindbergh to working on civil rights legislation, Andersen kept busy throughout his life.

“He didn’t sit around and twiddle his thumbs,” Swain said.

Andersen was a vocal University supporter and routinely gave advice to many of its presidents.

“He would say, ‘You don’t manage a university, you nurture it,’ ” Swain said.

Former University President Ken Keller said he sought advice from Andersen, and the two would talk about the University’s role.

While most University officials say the institution should focus on academics, research and outreach, Keller said Andersen was not satisfied with that.

“He would say ‘That’s not really enough,’ ” he said. “He saw the University as a transmitter of history and culture.”

Because of his love of history and literature, in 1999, Andersen donated $750,000’s worth of his personal book collection to the University library that bears his name.

Hy Berman, former University history professor and Andersen’s friend, said that Andersen enjoyed books until his death when his wife read with him because of his poor eyesight.

Andersen was one of the “warmest, engaging, intelligent and insightful human beings” Berman had ever known, he said.

“He was a person who lived, very actively, ‘Minnesota nice,’ ” he said.

University President Bob Bruininks said in a statement that Andersen was one of the greatest leaders in Minnesota history.

“I cannot think of very many leaders in my life that I’ve respected more and revered more than Gov. Elmer Andersen,” he said.

Regents Chairman Dave Metzen said Andersen was one of his heroes.

“The state is a lot better off because he lived,” he said.

Andersen was ahead of his time because he supported maternity leaves, the environment and special education, Metzen said.

“He understood the importance of education,” he said. “He was just a wonderful public servant.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered flags to be flown at half-staff for a period of mourning starting Tuesday and lasting until Andersen’s burial, which has not been set.

“His civic involvement touched every important aspect of Minnesota life,” Pawlenty said in a statement. “He never stopped reaching for higher ideals or encouraging us all to give more of ourselves.”

Andersen had been in the hospital since late October. He died at approximately 8 p.m. on Monday.

He is survived by his wife, Eleanor; daughter, Emily; and sons, Julian and Anthony.

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