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Profiles of Friends

Leslie Schiff

The classroom is a laboratory

Leslie Schiff has always loved science and research, but her biggest discovery was her love for teaching. As a virology researcher-turned-instructor, the library has been Schiff’s lifelong partner. She sees endless overlap between her educational work and the work of libraries. With a flood of queries and sources on the internet, librarians can help people understand perspective, purpose, bias, relevancy, and more.
Donavan Bagay Postier

Making up for lost time

Growing up on the Navajo Nation Reservation in Arizona, Donavan Begay Postier didn’t have many opportunities. Now she’s making up for lost time, reading almost anything she can get her hands on, playing games on her PC, and traveling whenever she can.
Divya Karan

Finding sanctuary in the arts

Divya Karan can’t dance and can’t sing — on key at least — but from Hindi and Urdu literature to social justice performing arts, she’s a patron of earnest creativity. It’s partly why she loves the Twin Cities. 
Molly Hagen-Robare

‘Unsung heroes’

Growing up in Plymouth, Minnesota, Molly Hagen-Robare would spend hours in the library with her mom and sisters, wandering between the aisles, reading book after book, and going to story times. “I love libraries,” Hagen-Robare said. “I like that it's an open place for people to gather. I like that everything is free, and anyone can get access to books and open up their imagination and creativity.” 
Jeremy Iggers

Good food, good stories

Jeremy Iggers is many things: a veteran journalist, a banjo player, an occasional instructor, but notably, a Friend of the Libraries. When he’s not working on the events committee or serving as the executive director of the Twin Cities Iranian Culture Collective, you can find Iggers playing banjo with his jug band at farmer’s markets or at the Minneapolis Battle of the Jug Bands. 
Matthew Holm

Outside the box: What box?

During his formative years, Matthew Holm's family lived outside town on a horse ranch, and he would ride in the car to and from Cannon Falls with his mother. In the hours between school getting out and them heading home, he’d walk to the local public library. There he got to know the librarians by name and he read, well, “everything I could” — from the graphic novels about Tintin, nonfiction accounts, and books about ghosts to compilations of the earliest photographs. Now, he's a board member with the Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries.
Clarence White

Treasures that are timeless

Clarence White fosters a sense of history and a variety of passions — and he is a new Friends of the U of M Libraries Board member.
Jessica Reza

Always asking: ‘What’s next?’

Jessica Reza is a bit of a U of M triple threat: English, Spanish, and Technical Communications combine in her B.A.; she shone on the Ivory Tower literary magazine publication team as an undergraduate; and, more recently, she earned an MBA from the Carlson School of Management. On the Friends of the Libraries board, Reza serves as co-chair of the Events committee. “The events are just so fun and eclectic,” she says.
Jerry Rinehart

In the affirmative

Jerry Rinehart, a member of the Friends of the Libraries board, remains open to all the possibilities and all the people around him.
Rekhet Si-Asar

Turn, turn, turn

Rekhet Si-Asar is a small-in-stature person who makes a big impression. “It's like magic to watch her,” says Lissa Jones-Lofgren, chair-elect of the Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries board. Over the past 20 years, she has known and admired Si-Asar for her high level of energy and her outstanding ways and results with people and with books.
Cassandra Grandahl

‘The library is an adventure’

It’s been called the Great Resignation, an aftereffect of widespread cabin fever suffered during COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions that led many to reflect on their values and what they plan to do with their one wild and precious life. Among the cohort seeking a new, more meaningful path was Cassandra Grandahl, Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries Board member.
Jim Parente

He burns the midnight oil

JIm Parente has filled several roles in his long tenure with the University of Minnesota, including Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Chair of the Department of German, Nordic, Slavic, & Dutch, Director of the Center for German and European Studies, and as a member of the Friends of the Libraries board. After six  years on the Friends board, he recently stepped down. “Jim is an intellectual. He’s really interested in these meaty issues and thinks about them. It’s not about the hottest thing or the sexiest thing,” says Marguerite Ragnow, Curator, James Ford Bell Library.
Marlene Zuk

She has heard the crickets singing

One of the first things Marlene Zuk does upon moving to a new town is to drop into her local library for a new library card. “Libraries are the linchpin of civilization,” says Zuk, Regents Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.
Lissa Jones-Lofgren, portrait

An accidental radio host

Friends of the Libraries member Lissa Jones-Lofgren didn’t plan to become a radio host and a podcaster. It started with her work in another discipline, organizational behavior. Fifteen years later she's the host of KMOJ's Urban Agenda, and the longtime host of the Black Market Reads podcast.
“Oliver!” by Theater Latté Da, photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp

Lover of the arts

In recent weeks, the dam holding back theatrical and musical productions in Minnesota has broken and one person benefiting is Bradley Greenwald, singer, actor, writer, and director. Also a Friend of the Libraries board member, Greenwald recently took part in a Leonard Bernstein tribute with Dan Chouinard and Prudence Johnson at Crooners in Fridley.
Carissa Tomlinson

Making connections

Carissa Tomlinson is a new member of the Friends of the University Libraries board. The Libraries Director of Student Experience, Learning & Outreach says: “I saw how consequential the Friends could be, in terms of supporting the Libraries financially, in terms of programming, and in that case, in terms of getting volunteers to do a variety of things.”
Jean M. O'Brien

A scholar’s reach

Jean O’Brien came to the University of Minnesota in 1989 to teach and do research on American Indians. She now is Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Northrop Professor of History and Chair of the American Indian Studies Department. She has published articles, book chapters, and seven books. A new member of the Friends of the UMN Libraries, O'Brien looks forward to contributing her scholarly expertise. “Like most academics in the humanities and social sciences, I spend a lot of time in libraries and archives,” she says. “I understand their importance to the world — not just to what we [scholars] do but to everybody.”
Joshua Preston

Finding his place

His natural bent would be toward contemplative study, says Joshua Preston, Friends of the University Libraries board member. But when he sees principles of justice violated, he must speak. He must act. As a soldier in the Minnesota National Guard and as an attorney, Preston has done both.
Gary Peterson

A turning point

Over the course of his career, Friends of the Libraries board member Gary Peterson has often moved in a new directions — with all the tools he had acquired along the way.
Pat Coleman

Keeping posterity in sight

Patrick Coleman’s love for Minnesota history started early — he was already collecting books on the subject while at the University of Minnesota. “It feels like I was born to do this job” of Acquisition Librarian at the Minnesota Historical Society. But it might not have happened without the University Libraries. 
Amelious N. Whyte Jr.

Positive influence

Amelious Whyte, Director for Public Engagement in the U of M College of Liberal Arts, joined the Friends of the Libraries board in 2015 and, starting in June, will become its chair. Whyte is very intentional, believing he is here — in Minnesota or on Earth — for a reason. “I have a vision statement that I created years ago. It’s to be a positive influence on the lives of others. That’s what I strive to do.” And he’s clearly succeeding.

Weaving a tapestry

Catherine Jordan's ability to make things happen has served her and organizations well, as she has been weaving arts, education, and health into her career tapestry. “I have been able to design and build things — whether a program, an event, or an organization,” says Jordan, Chair of the Friends of the University Libraries board.
Ann Waltner presented the 55th James Ford Bell Lecture, Watching Weddings in 1735: Two Representations of Chinese Wedding Processions. Waltner is a Professor in the Department of History at the University of Minnesota, where she specializes in Chinese history. She was the founding director of the University’s Institute for Advanced Study.

Multifaceted scholar

Chinese is a tough language for an English speaker to learn, with thousands of ideographic characters to learn, and four tones in spoken Mandarin. But as a college student, Ann Waltner didn’t yet know enough to be daunted by it. She found the language and the nation fascinating, and eventually became a historian of China and professor of history at the U of M. She's also a member of the Friends of the University Libraries.
Ann Pflaum

A storytelling path

University Historian Ann Pflaum — the former Associate Dean of what is now known as the College of Continuing and Professional Studies and author of “The University of Minnesota, 1945-2000” — is now serving on the Board of the Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries.
Peg Guifoyle

Collecting her thoughts

Peg Guilfoyle has a new book out: “Singing All the Verses: Essays from a Mid-American.” Guilfoyle, a member of the Friends of the Libraries board, along with actor Sally Wingert, will hold a free online book launch Jan. 13 at 7 p.m.

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