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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dean's Column (Nov. 2016)

Dear Extension Retirees,

In our last newsletter, I told you about my effort to bring awareness to how Extension reaches all corners of Minnesota by visiting all 15 of our regional offices and as many counties as possible this year.

As we near the end of 2016, I’m proud to report that I did visit every regional office, and as of early November, have been to 81 of our 87 counties. There’s still time, and I’ll reach my goal!

These trips have been fun because of the opportunity they gave me to visit with Extension employees – past and present – and our donors and partners. In some cases I was able to attend local events, and to conduct media interviews. Most of all, I enjoyed learning more about our programs and seeing the pride all of us take in the excellent work we do for our stakeholders.

I’ve also been pleased to attend all five of the University’s new SPARKS programs so far. The programs offer an opportunity for people in Greater Minnesota to hear from University faculty about current issues in their fields.

The final SPARKS event for 2016 will be in St. Cloud next week (Nov. 10) and two of the three speakers are from Extension: Mark Seeley and Ben Winchester. I hope to see you there, as well as at other programs like it that provide a way for Extension to share all that we do for Minnesota.

Bev Durgan

Dean Durgan with retirees in Rochester (left) and Detroit Lakes

Order the 2017 Minnesota Gardening calendar for a favorite gardener

Cover of Minnesota Gardening Calendar 2017
The Minnesota Gardening calendar, produced by the University of Minnesota Extension and
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, features seasonal photos and monthly gardening tips. The 2017 edition offers special features, including water saving strategies for home lawns (with a step-by-step guide for irrigation systems) and a vegetable garden planting guide. Buy them for yourself and as gifts for favorite fellow gardeners in time for the holidays and the upcoming gardening year! Proceeds from the sale of the calendar support statewide horticulture outreach education. To order the calendar from the University of Minnesota Bookstore, visit Receive a 10% discount by entering MG10 in the coupon code.

Attention snowbirds!

Do you travel to Florida or Arizona in the winter? Extension is very fortunate again this year to have speakers selected as part of the annual MinneCollege program organized by the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. These events feature University faculty and experts speaking on topics of current interest and conclude with a reception.
  • John Erwin, professor and Extension horticulturist, will present at the Florida MinneCollege, Feb. 4, 2017, Naples Hilton, Naples, FL. Registration noon, program, 1 p.m.
  • Karen Oberhauser, professor and Extension specialist - Fish, Wildlife & Conservation Biology, will be the keynote speaker; and Ben Winchester, Extension fellow, will be presenting at the Arizona MinneCollege, Feb. 25, 2017 at the Scottsdale Marriott at McDowell Mountains, Scottsdale AZ. Registration noon, program, 1 p.m.

If you would like more information, please contact the Extension Development Office at 612-626-3717 or

Gift helps 4-H’ers make their own state fair memories

David and Linda Werner say 4-H shaped their lives. When they were considering how to give back, they decided to focus on scholarships and other support for 4-H’ers who otherwise would not be able to participate in the Minnesota State Fair after earning a trip. David is an Extension retiree who remains involved with Extension through part-time work in finance. The Werners’ gift was used for the first time this year at the fair. Read more about the gift.

Extension launches new website for food shelves

In September, Extension unveiled a new website that will help make the healthy choice the easy choice for food shelf operators and clients. The website, Building Better Food Shelves, features training, print materials and videos that are free of charge to food shelf directors, volunteers and others working to improve healthy food access.

Family Development hosts visitors from Guatemala, Tunisia

Extension’s Global Initiatives programming has become very active over the past two years. For example, the Extension Center for Family Development hosted a delegation of officials from Guatemala who wanted to learn how to improve school food programs. Extension’s Director of Global Initiatives John Vreyens, and Family Development’s Director of Programs, Trish Olson, collaborated in an application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Foreign Agricultural Service Cochran Fellows program. While agriculture is typically the focus of these fellowships, the delegation from Guatemala wanted to learn about nutrition standards, procurement, food safety and storage, school meal implementation and operations, monitoring and compliance, and innovative practices. During the two-week visit, the delegation spent time with Minnesota’s departments of education, health and agriculture, along with visits to schools offering unique school food programs, commercial food distributors, and a food hub.

A Cochran Fellows group from Tunisia visited in September as well. The group consisted of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and a farmer who was part of the farmer's union in Tunisia. Ben Anderson, regional director in Moorhead, helped pull together the visits to farms and cooperatives in the lower Red River Valley.

Creating community across generations

Five generations of Minnesotans are now living and working together in communities and challenging each other to work across differences. “Community members of all ages can work well together, especially if they know the mindsets, expectations, and work styles of each generation,” says leadership and civic engagement educator Lisa Hinz. “All too often, the differences between generations, rather than the areas of opportunity, shape how people work together.” Creating community across generations is a feature story on Extension’s leadership education during a time of great societal change. Another recent story addressing change is Turning over the keys to rural businesses.

Awards and Accomplishments

Dean’s Distinguished Awards

Extension faculty and educators from across the state met in Duluth, Oct. 3-5, for the annual program conference. One of the highlights was the dinner and presentation of the Dean’s distinguished awards, where the following were honored for their hard work and dedication. You can learn more about the 2016 distinguished award winners on our website.

Friend of Extension
Doug Peterson, President, Minnesota Farmers Union

Campus-based Faculty
Robert Koch, Extension entomologist

Field-based Faculty
David Nicolai, Extension educator

Outstanding Leadership
Tamie Bremseth, Director of Youth Development Operations

Diversity and Inclusion
Partnering for School Success Team:

Extension—Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Antonio Alba Meraz, Emily Becher, Patrick Jirik, Jeanne Laqua, Mary Marczak, Kathleen Olson, Patricia Olson, Karen Shirer and Maria Villarraga.

Triton Public Schools (Dodge Center, Claremont, West Concord)—Gabriela Burk, Luke Lutterman and Nancy Stucky.

Faribault Middle Schools—Kelly McDermott, Michael Meihak, Zulema Nieves, Heidi Oanes and Todd Sesker

Outstanding Team
Economic Impact Analysis (EIA) Program Team: Adeel Ahmed, John Bennett, Rani Bhattacharyya, Merritt Bussiere, Dan Erkkila, Bill Lazarus, Neil Linscheid, Ryan Pesch, Xinyi Qian, Bruce Schwartau, Liz Templin and Brigid Tuck, along with the University of Minnesota Crookston Economic Development Administration Center

Other awards and accomplishments
Congratulations to Dean Herzfeld, coordinator, pesticide safety and environmental education, for being named Fellow of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators. Fellow is the highest honor the association bestows, recognizing contributions to the association and to the nation for advancing pesticide safety education.

Congratulations to the Master Naturalist Program for receiving the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs (ANROSP) award for outstanding program evaluation. They received this national award for their tenth anniversary publication and on-going collection and evaluation of data.

Welcome new retirees (Nov. 2016)

Sharon M. Danes’ 30-year career with the University was highlighted by her numerous publications and programs on major topics including family resiliency, retirement planning, family firms and financial literacy. She was a professor in Department of Family Social Science and an Extension specialist for the Center for Family Development. She retired on July 1.

James Deidrick, Extension Center for Youth Development, retired on Sept. 8 after a long career spanning appointments as a county Extension and 4-H educator to a leadership development educator and a national appointment when he began the Operation Military Kids Program.

Fay McLain, an Extension program coordinator with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program for nearly 28 years, retired June 30. Fay embodied the work of the program and created on-going relationships with staff, participants and agencies.

Robbie Radaich, Itasca County 4-H program coordinator, retired Aug. 1 after a 22-year career. Her first contributions were as a 4-H parent before becoming a program coordinator.

James Stordahl retired June 30. During his 21 years as an Extension educator, he served Clearwater and Polk Counties and provided programming contributions in dairy, beef, horticulture, small farms/local foods and crops.

In memoriam

Muriel Brink, an Extension nutritionist for many years in Minnesota, also had appointments at Michigan State University, University of Illinois and Cornell University, passed away in Eagan, Oct. 9, age 76. Muriel was integral in establishing the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and working with family serving agencies to improve nutrition levels for needy families.

Lawrence “Lerry” G. Peichel received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from the University and worked for over 30 years as the Brown County Extension agent. Lerry resided in Sleepy Eye and passed away Feb. 12 at age 94.

Timothy L. Wagar, age 65, passed away in Rochester on July 24. Tim’s career included work as a soil scientist for the United National Agency for International Development, where he spent a year in Saudi Arabia developing an irrigation system. He was an Extension educator and associate professor of crops and soil, retiring after 20 years at the University.

Retirees in retirement: Sharing your story (Nov. 2016)

This issue highlights Dale Blyth, Neil Broadwater, and (Dorothy) Jean Castle

Dale Blyth, former Associate Dean, Center for Youth Development, is enjoying volunteer work on issues making a difference in youth's lives: member, National Afterschool Association Board of Directors; co-chair, Journal of Youth Development's publications committee; chair, University YMCA Community Board; member, Greater Twin Cities United Way Education and Jobs Committee; member, Saint Paul Sprockets leadership group; member, Strategic Leadership Group Ignite Afterschool; member, Propel SEL (social emotional learning) Initiative's Advisory Council. Additional highlights: St. Paul’s Mayor Coleman named his retirement day "Dale Blyth Day;" moderated a keynote panel on Bridging Research and Practice at the National Afterschool Association meetings in Washington, and attended the White House Conference on Opportunity Youth.

Neil Broadwater, who served as a regional educator with Extension’s dairy team in the Rochester and Winona Offices, has been active as the secretary and past-president of the Winona Kiwanis Sunrisers Club and webmaster for the Minnesota Association of Extension Ag Professionals. Since 2004, he has been providing monthly data entry work on spreadsheets for the Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca related to dairy heifer calves. Neil was inducted into the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Hall of Fame in July, 2015 and presently serves as NACAA National Chair of the Life Member Committee (currently over 3,000 members).

(Dorothy) Jean Castle, former Extension area agent in Community and Natural Resource Development/Family Development, Northwest District, has been heading up the North Country Arts and Crafts Workshop. Originally formed by Extension, it became an independent volunteer non-profit in the early 1980s. This three-day event, now in its 41st year, provides arts experiences in the area. Jean also serves on the board of Lakeland Public Television, the only public station to provide local news weekdays. She has been hired by Beltrami County as a watercraft inspector to prevent invasive species from migrating from lake to lake in Minnesota. She finds summers at the boat landings are rewarding and gets to meet lots of interesting people.

Barb Liukkonen, who worked in water resources, volunteers with her husband to deliver large-print books to senior residences in Two Harbors and find grant funding to make sure the collection is fresh and current. She continues to volunteer with many other organizations.

If you have news or a story to share with fellow Extension retirees, please share the news by completing this Google Form or send an email to Gwen Gmeinder at We hope to hear from many of you. Don’t be shy—tell us about your activities and successes!

Professional development grants for retirees available

The Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice President for Research, and the U Retirees Association have announced grants (up to $5,000) to help U retirees pursue projects related to their scholarly and/or creative interests. Faculty, P&A, and civil service retirees from the Twin Cities and system campuses are eligible to apply, including those retiring by July 1, 2017. The application deadline is Dec. 16.

Media Moment (Nov 2016)

Deb Zak named “2016 Outstanding Community Builder” by Northwest Minnesota Women's Fund 

Deb Zak, Extension regional director in Crookston, has been honored for her work in northwest Minnesota. Outstanding Community Builder Awards are presented to women who have demonstrated leadership in improving the quality of life for those around them, making northwest Minnesota a better place to live, work, and raise families. The Northwest Minnesota Women's Fund develops resources and serves as a catalyst for improving the quality of life for women and girls.

Deb’s many accomplishments include launching the Red River Valley Emerging Leadership Program, and co-directing the White Earth Academy of Math and Science, a White Earth Nation and University of Minnesota partnership since 1998. She has been a regional director since 1997 and was an Extension educator in Pennington County before that.

Deb is a lifelong northwest Minnesota resident. Her recent recognition was featured in the Crookston Times.

Read more about Deb’s achievements that led to the award on the Northwest Minnesota Foundation’s website. See photos from an Oct. 12 event honoring Deb on their blog.
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