UMM Alumni Association
Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
Paulette Fairbanks Molin '66
Paulette Fairbanks Molin graduated from UMM in 1966, receiving a bachelor of arts in French and English. She continued her education at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she earned a master of fine arts in 1975 and a doctorate in 1987, both in educational administration. Her dedicated career in education included serving as director of an American Indian elementary curriculum project for the Minneapolis Public Schools and as assistant dean of the graduate college and director of the American Indian Educational Opportunity Program at Hampton University in Virginia.
Professor of History Wilbert Ahern nominated Molin for the award. He praised the noted educator and author's professional and civic accomplishments, especially noting Molin's "path-breaking" study of stereotypes with which Indian children must deal. He also stated: "As a charter member of the National Caucus of the Woodcraft Circle, Molin, a member of the Chippewa Tribe from the White Earth Reservation, has helped create a supportive climate for other native authors."
Molin is coeditor of American Indian Stereotypes in the World of Children , coauthor of Encyclopedia of Native American Religions , and the author of numerous articles, poems and stories. Molin has served as curator for several major exhibitions including Enduring Legacy: Native Peoples, Native Arts at Hampton and To Lead and To Serve: American Indian Education at Hampton Institute, 1878-1923, a traveling photographic exhibition which has been presented at numerous sites across the United States including Harvard University.
Cy Thao '95
Cy Thao graduated from UMM in 1995, receiving a bachelor of arts in political science and studio art. He helped found the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent in St. Paul and served as its first director. In 2000 he received a Bush Artist Fellowship that allowed him to complete a series of 50 oil paintings that he had begun as a student in 1993. The exhibition, "The Hmong Migration: Fifty Paintings" chronicles 5000 years of Hmong history beginning with creation stories and ending with a world map showing the many countries where Hmong people now make their homes. The powerful and moving exhibition was featured at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2004.
Jenny Nellis, professor of studio art, nominated Thao for the award. She noted Thao's dedication to serving others as exemplary, as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, as a member of the Hmong community, and as a member of the UMM community.
Nellis describes Thao's efforts on behalf of the Hmong living in Minnesota and studying at UMM as "uplifting and inspirational." In 2002 Thao launched a successful bid as representative for District 65A, the Frogtown neighbor in St. Paul which is home to a large Hmong population. In his service to UMM, the multi-ethnic student population, including the Asian Student Organization, has particularly appreciated Thao's support and guidance. He received the UMM Multi-Ethnic Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004.
Leonard Munstermann '64
In 1964, Leonard Munstermann was a member of UMM's first
graduating class, earning a bachelor of arts in psychology.
He was UMM's first senior president of the Morris Campus Student
Association, UMM's first undergraduate research assistant
and also served as editor of the student newspaper during
his undergraduate career.
After graduation, Munstermann accepted a position as a Peace
Corps science teacher in West Africa where he developed a
keen interest in insects that would lead to his life's calling.
After returning to the U.S., he earned a master of science
degree in zoology from the University of Minnesota and a doctoral
degree in biology from the University of Notre Dame.
Munstermann is currently a research scientist in the Division
of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of
Public Health. His research involves molecular genetics focused
on the insect vector that provide clues to genomic organization,
population structure and evolutionary relationships. His research
utilizes Aedes mosquitoes and phlebotomine sand flies of New
and Old World and emphasizes three genetic approaches:
gene linkage mapping provides genetic backbone for
isolating genes and macrogenomic evolution;
genetic variability within an insect species in the
form of isoenzymes or DNA base pair substitutions indicate
population structure, population origin or taxonomic relatedness;
identification of closely related vector species by
(biochemical) genetic means.
Munstermann has authored and co-authored 173 publications.
He has presented numerous papers and posters at meetings of
scientific societies and a number of prestigious invited lectures.
His research has been funded by grants received mostly from
the National Institutes of Health, and he has received educational
grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National
Science Foundation. He has been associated with other grants
totaling several additional million dollars.
Munstermann also serves as associate curator in the Division
of Entomology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History,
a prestigious museum with 1.5 million insect specimens to
organize and study.
A Presidents Club giving society member since 1998, Munstermann
is a loyal alumnus of the University of Minnesota, Morris,
and a strong advocate of its mission.
John Dayton '68
John Dayton graduated from UMM in 1968 with a speech degree
and secondary education certificate. After serving several
years in the UMM Admissions Office and two years with the
U.S. Army, he enrolled in Texas Tech University School of
Law in Lubbock. Following graduation, he joined one of the
largest, oldest, most prestigious law firms in Dallas-Thompson,
Knight, Simmons and Bullion-and specialized in real estate
In 1982 John stumbled upon an interesting property-a dining
establishment-and discovered a talented chef. A few months
later, he resigned from his law firm position and entered
the world of hospitality by opening his first restaurant,
Routh Street Cafe in Dallas. Currently, John is a partner
in Cuisine Concepts the umbrella organization and operating
company of Tejas, Goodfellow's and Tejas Express restaurants,
The Franklin Street Bakery, and a restaurant management and
consulting business, all located in Minneapolis.
John gives generously and graciously to a variety of important
organizations. He served as chair of the Dallas Center for
the Performing Arts, an organization planning a multi-purpose
performing arts complex in the Dallas Arts District. John
also served as chairman of the board and president of The
Dallas Opera and chair of The Dallas County Youth Village,
a residential treatment facility for young people. He was
an executive committee member of The Dallas Zoological Society
and board member of ChildCare Dallas. He currently serves
on the Board of Trustees of the University of Minnesota Foundation,
The Taft School in Connecticut and Eaglebrook School in Massachusetts.
John co-chaired the UMM Campaign Minnesota Volunteer Executive
Committee. The successful fundraising drive garnered much
good will for UMM and almost $9.6 million dollars in private
support for the campus.
Robert Gandrud '65
Bob Gandrud graduated from UMM in 1965 with a degree in mathematics.
He immediately joined Lutheran Brotherhood, a fraternal financial
services organization, as an actuary. After working in several
divisions of the company including insurance, product developments,
sales and marketing, and management information services,
Bob quickly rose to the top ranks of management. Bob was named
president in 1987 and chief executive officer in 1988. He
led Lutheran Brotherhood for 12 years, overseeing a period
of tremendous growth and change.
Over the years Bob has served on a number of business, community,
college and church boards. He and his wife, Nancy, have helped
build a dozen homes for Habitat for Humanity, and have been
foster parents to more than 40 infants. Bob has continued
his community involvement during his retirement, serving on
the Luther Seminary Major Gifts Committee, making congregational
visits, and serving as co-chair of UMM's capital campaign.
Lue Her '97
Lue Her was born in Laos and spent his earliest years in
a Thai refugee camp. When his family immigrated to the United
States, he grew up in a crime-ridden housing project in St
Paul. His mother insisted that he attend a mostly-white elementary
school in order to learn English more quickly, and Lue was
soon translating for other Hmong parents.
Lue excelled in high school and thrived at UMM, earning degrees
in political science and secondary education and becoming
involved in a number of student organizations. After graduation
in 1997, Lue received a Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs,
a program that matches Coro Fellows with top executives in
business, government, and philanthropy. Through this fellowship,
he worked with Hmong-American Community, Inc., an economic
development group that serves immigrants in the Central Valley
of California. While there he helped farmers start a cooperative
which sells thousands of dollars of Asian produce every week.
Since 1999, Lue has worked with the Minnesota Higher Education
Services Office, where he manages AmeriCorps/Get Ready!, a
national service program that helps disadvantaged students
succeed in school and go on to college. He also assists in
the recruitment and placement of students enrolled in UMM's
English Language Teaching Assistant Program, placing them
in semester long teaching opportunities in Thailand and Laos.
Bruce Johnson '71
Following graduation in 1971 with a degree in English, Bruce
earned a Ph.D. in English and education, with studies in film,
from Northwestern University. His first film, made in 1977,
was a promotional documentary for the ABC mini-series "Roots."
Bruce moved to Hollywood in 1979 where he started out making
low-budget teacher-education films for Dave Bell Associates,
an independent television production company. He did everything:
wrote, produced, directed, edited, and sound on location.
Over the next several years, Bruce produced documentaries,
industrial films and public affairs programs. His credits
included "America, America," a series for the Disney Channel
profiling extraordinary Americans, and "On Campus," a PBS
news program that won him two of three Emmy Awards in 1983
and 1984. In 1985 Bruce joined Hanna-Barbera as a producer
and became swept up in animation.
Bruce was named studio general manager when Turner Broadcasting
acquired Hanna-Barbera in 1991. After several years, he began
to miss the creative work that comes with producing, and in
1995, formed PorchLight Entertainment with the founding vision
to "tell good stories that impart moral lessons." His target
audience: the entire family. The company's flagship property
is the very successful "Adventures from the Book of Virtues"
- classic stories from around the world now in its fourth
season on PBS. This series has been sold in over 75 countries
worldwide. Next came "Jay Jay the Jet Plane," a preschool
series that airs daily on PBS. The company has also produced
movies for the Disney Channel, Fox Family Channel, Animal
Planet, Hallmark, and others.
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