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Feature

Nils Hasselmo waving to the crowd during the 1996 Homecoming parade.

Nils Hasselmo at the 1996 Homecoming parade. He served nine years as the 13th president of the University of Minnesota.

Nils Hasselmo Hall to be dedicated

By Pauline Oo

Published on May 5, 2005

With his gracious manner and the lilting accent of his native Sweden, Nils Hasselmo was highly regarded within and outside the U.

As a former University of Minnesota president (1987-1996), Hasselmo's most important contribution was improving the student experience. Before he held the reins, students were a kind of necessary evil--you had to have them to have a university, but the place wasn't really organized for their benefit. Students could and did get a great education, but they had to dig it out on their own.

In 1993, Hasselmo launched an initiative to reshape the undergraduate experience on the Twin Cities campus. The efforts have paid off. Class sizes are smaller. Senior faculty are teaching more introductory classes. Students are arriving at the U better prepared, and more are from the top 25 percent of their high school class. Registration lines have disappeared as students register online. The improvements have continued under succeeding presidents, Mark Yuduf (1997-2002) and Bob Bruininks (2002-present).

U buildings in honor of past presidents

The University has a tradition of naming buildings for its past presidents. When a president leaves the U, a committee comprising representatives of the Board of Regents and the Faculty Consultative Committee will forward a recommendation to the Senate All-University honors Committee. Once the committee approves the nomination, it is sent to the president and regents for approval.

Folwell Hall, named for William Watts Folwell. Built in 1907.

Cyrus Northrop Auditorium, named for Cyrus Northrop. Built in 1929 and dedicated on 11/15/29.

Vincent Hall, named for George Edgar Vincent. Built in 1938 and dedicated 10/13-14/38.

Burton Hall. Originally built as the Library in 1895, and renamed Burton Hall in 1931 for Marion LeRoy Burton.

Coffman Union, named for Lotus Delta Coffman. Built in 1940 and dedicated on 10/25/40.

Ford Hall, named for Guy Stanton Ford. Built in 1951.

Coffey Hall. Originally built as the Main building on the St. Paul Campus in 1907, and renamed Coffey Hall in 1949 for Walter Castella Coffey.

Morrill Hall. Originally built in 1925 as the Administration Building, and renamed Morrill Hall in 1962 for James Lewis Morrill.

O. Meredith Wilson Library, named for O. Meredith Wilson. Built in 1968.

Malcolm Moos Health Sciences Tower, named for Malcolm Moos in 1983. Originally built as Health Science Unit A to house Dentistry, the Medical School, and Public Health between 1973 and 1976.

Magrath Library. Originally built as the St. Paul Library in 1953, and renamed Magrath Library for C. Peter Magrath in 1998.

Source: University Archives

Physical changes to the campus are another part of the Hasselmo legacy. Among the many Twin Cities projects started or completed under his watch: the Weisman Art Museum, the Basic Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Building, the Carlson School of Management Building, the Ted Mann Concert hall, and the Mariucci and Williams sports arenas. Tomorrow (May 6) the Basic Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Building, better known as BSBE, will be renamed the Nils Hasselmo Hall. There will be a dedication ceremony and free public reception in building's auditorium from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Speakers will include President Bruininks, Regent David Metzen, and Nils Hasslemo.

The building provides a space and the necessary resources, such as research labs, for University scientists to conduct interdisciplinary studies in neuroscience, immunology, structural biology, cellular and molecular biology, biomedical engineering, and other related fields.

Hasselmo, who immigrated to the United States in 1958, joined the University faculty in 1965 as a professor of Scandinavian languages and literature. He served as associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 1983 to 1975 and vice president for administration and planning from 1980 to 1983. He left to become provost and senior vice president at the University of Arizona in Tuscon before returning to the U to become its 13th president. Upon his retirement in 1997, Hasselmo became president of the American Association of Universities in Washington D.C.--a position he currently holds.

To learn more about Hasselmo and his presidency at the U, see Hasselmo history.

With excerpts from Minnesota magazine, May-June 1997.

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