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Feature

Richard "Pinky" McNamara

Richard "Pinky" McNamara

McNamara steps down, but his legacy continues

By Rick Moore

December 6, 2005

As a member of the Board of Regents, Richard "Pinky" McNamara served the University of Minnesota for four years. But as a student-athlete, benefactor, University of Minnesota Foundation board member, and all-around champion of U causes, his service to the U and legacy of giving span more than a half century.

On Friday, the University announced that McNamara, 72, has resigned from the Board of Regents due to health reasons. Former Governor Jesse Ventura appointed McNamara to an at-large seat on the board in 2001 and McNamara was elected to the board in 2003. His term was due to expire in 2007, and according to Minnesota law, Governor Tim Pawlenty will now appoint his successor.

"I am proud of my education and accomplishments as a University of Minnesota student and alumnus," McNamara wrote in a letter Thursday to acting board chair Patricia Simmons. "I am also deeply grateful for the opportunity to provide continuous service and contributions to the University of Minnesota, an institution that transformed my life and means so much to the state of Minnesota."

"We thank Regent McNamara for his service to the University," said Simmons on Friday. "His concern has always been with students and whether the University is doing enough to help students succeed. He will be greatly missed."

Making a name for himself A native of Hastings, Minnesota, McNamara grew up in a household of six boys. It's said that the nickname "Pinky" corresponds to a pair of faded red pants he wore frequently as a child. The name apparently lasted far longer than the pants.

A salute from President Bruininks

"Regent McNamara has been a valuable asset to the University of Minnesota since he first became a student here more than 50 years ago," says President Bob Bruininks. "His dedication and contributions to the University are an example for all of us. He has been a valued member of the Board of Regents, and he will remain an important part of the University community."

He came to the University in the early '50s, earned an athletic scholarship, and became a three-year letter winner for the Golden Gophers football team. He was a running back in an era of great Gopher running backs, including the legendary Paul Giel (All-American in 1952 and 1953) and Pinky's brother Bob--an All-American in 1954 who went on to play with the Denver Broncos in the American Football League. Pinky McNamara himself played halfback in the Blue-Gray Classic post-season game in 1956, and was drafted in the 23rd round by the Baltimore Colts. He graduated from the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) in 1956.

Lending his name to the University of Minnesota After his undergraduate days at the U, McNamara found success in business. He is currently the chairman and owner of Activar Inc., a company specializing in restructuring failing companies and bringing them to profitability.

He left an indelible mark at the University with his generosity in 1998, when he donated $10 million to his alma mater. At the time, it was the second largest gift ever received by the U from a living alumnus. Among other things, the gift was used to improve the undergraduate student experience in liberal arts and for intercollegiate athletics. And $3 million of his gift went to help build the McNamara Alumni Center--a building that was finished in 2000, bears McNamara's name, and has among its many tenants the Board of Regents.

"If I lived five lifetimes, I couldn't repay the University of Minnesota for what it has meant in my life and my career," McNamara said at the time of his historic gift. "I had academic advisers and teachers who guided me and saved my academic life with their dedication. I hope that what I am doing will encourage other alumni to consider giving back to the University, which has made such a difference not only in our individual lives, but in the collective life of the state."

In 1992, six years prior to his $10 million gift, McNamara donated $119,000 in honor of his two University advisers--Vivian Hewer and Mabel Powers. The donation helped improve the advising program in CLA, providing its advisers with computer access to planning information, student records, online registration, and class closure data.

McNamara also serves on the board of directors for the University of Minnesota Foundation (UMF), University M Club, Dunwoody College of Technology, World Presidents' Organization, and Council of Independent Managers.

This article contains information from the University News Service.