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Feature

Fred Wall

Fred Wall earned his degree at the U earlier this year.

Graduating (when some are retiring), then giving back

From M, winter 2004

Fred Wall isn't your average University of Minnesota alum; he earned his degree last spring at age 71. He isn't your average recent grad donor either; shortly after graduating, he made a gift to the U of $1 million. What he does have in common with other donors and alumni is a desire to support something for which he developed a passion. In his case, it was lifelong learning. Wall designated his gift for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's new visitor center--specifically, for the classroom and teaching garden that will facilitate lifelong learning for intergenerational families. Wall, former president of the Arboretum Foundation's board of trustees, notes that his father was a florist and his own early college studies were in ornamental horticulture. The arboretum's outdoor classroom will be an extension of an indoor classroom equipped with the latest technology for multimedia presentations. The classroom will open to an enclosed teaching garden, with raised beds and work space where teachers and students, old and young alike, can gather to work on a variety of projects with plants. Peter Olin, arboretum director and one of Wall's academic advisers, says, "Even with his significant life accomplishments, Fred Wall's desire to learn has never slowed. This legacy gift mirrors his great intellectual curiosity. In my mind, there could be no finer tribute to him and his family than this project." Wall, of Wayzata, Minnesota, owns the Wall Companies, a real estate development firm, and the Highland Bank in St. Paul. It was a series of business downturns in 1990 that triggered Wall's urge to learn. "I took a year off and spent a lot of time on a boat I owned," he recounts, noting that he stocked up for the time afloat with a series of classic volumes from the library. "And I was fascinated. You get to this age, and you're amazed by how much you don't know." When he returned to Minnesota, he took a few classes. Even as the business climate rebounded, he says he was surprised by how much he enjoyed being back in school. "Out of all the things I was doing, it was surprising just how rewarding this was," Wall says.

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