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Barbara Reiss (left) and Evelyn Cottle Raedler in front of the alumni wall.

U alumna Barbara Reiss (left) looking for her father's name on the new University of Minnesota Alumni Wall of Honor. Helping with the search is Evelyn Cottle Raedler, the U of M Alumni Association's communications editor.

Alumni wall honors achievement

By Pauline Oo

From eNews, September 29, 2005

Barbara Reiss can't recall the year her father was honored, but she knows his name is among the more than 1,000 on the University of Minnesota Alumni Wall of Honor. After 15 minutes of carefully scanning the wall, her perseverance pays off. Reiss's deceased father, David Gould Fletcher, appears under the 1966 listings.

The new structure on the Gateway Plaza at the corner of Oak Street and Washington Avenue contains the names of every recipient of the U's Outstanding Alumni Achievement award (OAA; the highest award given to University alumni). It echoes the McNamara Alumni Center's angular design and stretches more than 200 feet along Oak Street. Last Friday (September 23), about 5,000 University students, faculty, staff, and alumni attended the unveiling ceremony that coincided with the 2005 Homecoming Pep Fest outside the McNamara Alumni Center.

"I'm so happy I found [my father's] name," says Reiss, a 1946 U graduate. "My family couldn't come out here with me today, but I just had to come. I can't wait to bring my children and grandchildren out here to see it." Reiss's father graduated from the U in the early 1920s and received an Outstanding Achievement Award for his contributions to plant pathology on June 7, 1966.

The Board of Regents created the OAA in 1947 to honor alumni from all University colleges who have excelled in their chosen field and who have made extraordinary--local, national, or global--contributions to their community. Besides radio personality and author Garrison Keillor, honorees include Elmer Andersen, Earl Bakken, Kathleen Blatz, Norman Borlaug, Curt Carlson, and Walter Mondale.

"This is a wonderful idea and a great way for the U to recognize the graduates who reflected well on the education that they got here and who moved on to pursue careers that the U prepared them for," says Marcus Alexis, a 1959 alum and 1981 OAA recipient. Alexis, a resident of Oakland, California, was among the 126 OAA recipients who returned to their alma mater for the Friday evening festivities, which included dinner, speeches, and a ribbon-cutting dedication ceremony.

A natural patina

The U's Alumni Wall of Honor is made of Cor-Ten steel, a type of metal that oxidizes naturally over time. This feature is what gives the structure its orange-brown color and rough texture. In spite of its rusted appearance, the metal is considered to be more resistant to damaging corrosion than standard forms of carbon steel.

The Alumni Wall of Honor, designed by architect Antoine Predock in collaboration with sculptor Constance DeJong, also commemorates the University's creation. The structure's northern portion includes a representation--created by thousands of tiny lights illuminated at night from within--of how the night sky appeared when the University was chartered on Feb. 25, 1851.

Like the nearby Scholars Walk, the alumni wall was entirely funded through private giving, principally through the generosity of the late Carlyle Anderson, a 1932 graduate, whose gift also made possible the recognition of major donors to the University in the adjacent McNamara Alumni Center.

For a complete list of OAA recipients, see Outstanding Achievement Award.