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Focus Helps Us Succeed

Jeff Gunderson

This summer Minnesota Sea Grant marked two significant events. First, we celebrated a milestone – our 30th anniversary. The other event was also significant in the life of a Sea Grant program; Carl Richards, our director for almost six years, left to become the director of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Mid-Continent Ecology Division in Duluth.

Reflecting on our 30-year history, Minnesota Sea Grant has had only four directors mold the program. We will miss the compelling presence of this latest director who was dedicated to all aspects of the Sea Grant mission. We understand Carl’s interest in directing the research conducted at the EPA's laboratory (and we’re glad leaving Sea Grant was a difficult decision for him).

Carl came to Sea Grant with strong and well-recognized research credentials, but he also valued extension, communications, and education. Most of all, he supported the people of Sea Grant, giving them encouragement and latitude to excel.

Carl managed the research side of the program with exceptional insight, which was recognized nationally, but also had a broader vision. For example, he was willing to provide council and enter into collaborations with the Great Lakes Aquarium even when they were besieged by multiple challenges and heavy criticism. Carl understood the educational potential of the aquarium and worked at keeping the University connected to it. That resulted in the successful Partners in Education (PIE) program, which Sea Grant supports. PIE provides UMD pre-education students with quality volunteer teaching experiences while offering Lake Superior-focused educational opportunities for area grade-school students.

While Carl’s resignation dampened our 30th celebration somewhat, it was gratifying to tally three decades of accomplishments and listen to Dale Baker (Minnesota Sea Grant’s first employee and extension program leader for nearly 20 years) and Jim Murray (our first extension educator) reflect on "the good old days." Both continue to guide aspects of Sea Grant – Dale leads the Sea Grant extension program in New York and Jim is the outreach director in the National Sea Grant Office.

What’s clear after the recent anniversary and farewell celebrations is that we are fortunate to have had dedicated people with a clear vision directing and working for this program from the beginning. Despite the various challenges a 30-year history encompasses, Minnesota Sea Grant has remained focused, successful, and can provide evidence of significant outcomes and impacts.

While bidding Carl farewell is difficult, I take solace that Minnesota Sea Grant is one of the nation's exemplary programs because of a legacy of leadership such as his. From our strong foundations, I look forward to searching for a new director and to our next 30 years.

Jeff Gunderson
Minnesota Sea Grant Acting Director

By Jeff Gunderson
October 2005

Return to October 2005 Seiche

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