Alumnus Yanni Chryssomallis with University president Bob Bruininks (right). Yanni received an honorary degree from the U in May 2004 for outstanding cultural contributions.
Yanni honored at UMAA annual event
From eNews, June 10, 2004
At the University of Minnesota Alumni Association's 100th Anniversary Gala Finale and Annual Celebration on May 6, renowned contemporary instrumental composer Yanni Chryssomallis spoke about his path from Greece to Minnesota and the role the U played in shaping his life. "I will always be grateful to the University of Minnesota because when I was young, the world was opened up to me here," said the 1976 University psychology graduate. "People took me in, they supported me in every way possible, and they wanted me to succeed." Yanni, who received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters--for outstanding cultural contributions--at the event, addressed an audience of approximately 2,000 people. He named University faculty member Bill McDonald as his inspiration to study at the U. Yanni met him as a teenager, while McDonald was on an archaeological expedition in Greece. "Bill possessed humility about knowledge," explained Yanni. "He always treated me with respect..., he always engaged me in dialogue, and he always tried to engage my creative spirit.... I thought if I ever was going to have a teacher that he would be like Bill MacDonald. And so when my father asked if I was interested in going to America to study at the University of Minnesota, my answer was very easy." After receiving his bachelor's degree, Yanni decided to pursue a career in music. The self-taught pianist has received numerous Grammy nominations, and his album, "Yanni: Live At The Acropolis," has sold more than seven million copies worldwide and has resulted in one of the best-selling music videos of all time. Yanni is also the first major western artist to ever perform and record at the Taj Mahal in India and the Forbidden City in China. Yanni closed his speech with words to U educators: "Please know that what you teach and how you teach it makes a profound difference. It did for me, it still does for the kids of today, and it will make a profound difference on generations to come. Thank you for helping me find my way." To read Yanni's entire speech, visit www.alumni.umn.edu/annual.