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Panel addresses UMM's past, future

Five former University of Minnesota, Morris administrators address the campus' past and future during the "Blooming Where We're Planted" history panel Saturday at Imholte Hall. The panel is part of UMM's Founders Weekend celebrations. From left at Bettina Blake, Steve Granger, Dave Johnson, Gary McGrath and Sam Schuman.

A panel of former University of Minnesota, Morris administrators spoke on key aspects of the campus' 50-year history and offered some advice on its future during a 90-minute discussion that packed the "Cow Palace" auditorium at Imholte Hall Saturday afternoon.

The panel discussion was part of UMM's Founders Weekend celebrations, which are focused primarily on the combined anniversaries of UMM and the 100th anniversary of the West Central School of Agriculture, from which the university grew.

Former vice chancellors Bettina Blake, Steven Granger and Gary McGrath joined former UMM chancellors Dave Johnson and Sam Schuman to present "Blooming Where We're Planted."

See the Sun Tribune Web site this coming week, and the Oct. 2 print edition of the paper, for more in-depth coverage of the panel discussion and other Founders Weekend activities. See the Sun Tribune's Facebook page for a video clip of Bettina Blake's presentation on Saturday.

Granger, a founding UMM faculty member, praised the contributions of UMM's first chancellor, Rodney Briggs. Granger said that, "in the most fundamental way, (UMM) was founded by Rodney Briggs. His energy. Think what he had to do."

McGrath, who also graduated from UMM, told several humorous stories, but choked up a little when talking about the original UMM administrators and staff and their commitment to helping the institution grow and improve.

"That integrity really sticks out in my mind," he said.

Blake discussed the true definition of what a liberal arts college is and what the people who work at such an institution, and learn there, are charged with doing.

UMM is young as institutions of higher learning go, but the roots are there, she said.

"I think (UMM) has a wonderful future ahead of it," Blake said.

Johnson spoke of the difficulties facing smaller liberal arts universities, especially in terms of funding in the last 20 years.

"We went from state funded to state assisted to -- I've often believed in my deepest, darkest thoughts -- state located," Johnson said.

But Johnson took an upbeat tone when addressing the many bonding projects the state has supported on campus, and the growing interest and support of UMM alumni. He borrowed a phrase from the understated former University of Minnesota President Nils Hasselmo.

"That's pretty darn good," Johnson said.

Schuman spoke about the relationship of UMM to the U of M system, calling it "overwhelming a great thing for UMM," despite the difficulties often inherent in that relationship. Given the problems facing universities around the U.S., without the U of M's support of its satellite campuses, UMM "might not have made it to its 50th anniversary and certainly wouldn't have arrived in such a strong and thriving manner."