As 2008 draws to a close, the Star Tribune Editorial Board salutes Minnesotans whose individual accomplishments helped make this a better place to live during the past year. We’re thankful they call our state home.
Joel and Ethan Coen
Prolific filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen may not be universally loved among their fellow Minnesotans, whose accents and tastes in clothing provided much of what color there was in “Fargo.” The brothers shot that dark comedy in Minnesota more than a decade before returning to make their pending dark comedy, “A Serious Man.” The Coens do intelligent work that is alternately disturbing and hilarious — if darkly hilarious. Minnesotans should take pride in the Coens’ success and in their decision to come home to film their latest project, which is set for release next September.
Screenwriter Cody, like the Coens, draws upon the character and culture of Minnesota in her work. Cody, whose hit screenplay for “Juno” won an Oscar for the onetime stripper and City Pages blogger, could herself be the subject of a screenplay someday — for when was there a more perfect real life rags-to-riches story? We’re thankful for her demonstration of the sweet and sentimental truth that anything is possible.
The 22-year-old from Cloquet, Minn., became the first Augsburg College student to win a Rhodes Scholarship. In a letter to Rhodes judges, Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow called Krohn “one of the most intellectually accomplished, civically engaged and practically imaginative’’ students he’s encountered in 25 years. Among Krohn’s many accomplishments at Augsburg is the Honors Review, giving undergraduates a place to publish research papers. It should be noted that University of Minnesota can also proudly claim a new Rhodes Scholar — Ashley Nord, of Rapid City, S.D.
At age 85 and after a stellar career building the Fairview Hospital system, Platou (pictured in 1988) could be a man of leisure. Instead, he’s a man on a mission: raising $125 million to put top scientific talent in the four giant new biomedical research labs now being built on the University of Minnesota campus. He’s a senior adviser to the dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School. With a blend of charm and dogged persistence, he did much to secure state legislation authorizing those buildings last April. Raising money in today’s economic environment won’t be easy. But if we were a betting page, our money would be on Platou.
Former Wells Fargo banker Heegaard is an old hand at community service. This year, he became a new hand as an author. His book, “Heroes Among Us,” published by Nodin Press, is required reading of anyone who wants to understand the origin and operation of many of the nonprofit organizations that combat poverty in the Twin Cities. He deserves thanks for making a lasting record of the lives and work of a dozen social entrepreneurs — each of whom also is owed Minnesota’s thanks. Heegaard’s heroes: Doug and Mary Hall, Hussein Samatar, Brenda St. Germaine, Mike Temali, Laura Waterman Wittstock, Hoang Tran, Atum Azzahir, Sandra Vargas, Richard Ericson, John Durand and Joe Errigo.
Dale Connelly and Tom Keith
For over a quarter-century, Connelly and Keith (under the name Jim Ed Poole) have brought a unique blend of music and personality to “The Morning Show” on Minnesota Public Radio. Now, with Keith’s retirement from his day job (he will continue as sound-effects man for “A Prairie Home Companion”), MPR has canceled the show, effective Dec. 11. Connelly will continue with an online version. We’re grateful for the pair’s genial, civilized presence over the years (the photo is from 1990), and especially for their steadfast demonstration that drive-time radio needn’t be mean to be funny.
Colton Witte and Sean Bloomfield
Both 18, Witte and Bloomfield captured the state’s attention by canoeing from the Twin Cities to the Arctic Ocean. The 2,200-mile journey was inspired by legendary journalist Eric Sevareid’s book “Canoeing with the Cree,’’ which described his trek from Minnesota to Hudson Bay. Witte and Bloomfield made the trip in 49 days. Providing a fitting congratulations, Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman wrote of Witte and Bloomfield’s excellent canoe adventure: “Others have done it before. But none, to my knowledge, have done it faster, and few since Sevareid and his paddling partner Walter Port have captured the public’s imagination more effectively. Almost unwittingly, the teens tapped into a deep strain of Minnesota lore — in which they had been steeped by their families — that connected with our love of woods and waters.’’
Hosting the Republican National Convention turned out to be a huge undertaking for the region, but an estimated 10,000 volunteers helped the RNC stage a successful event in St. Paul. The U.S. Women’s Open played to a much smaller national audience, despite a terrific field. Those who attended the tournament or watched the TV broadcasts were treated to a memorable tournament at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, thanks in part to more than 3,000 volunteers. One unexpected Minnesota event — the U.S. Senate recount — is relying on hundreds of volunteers around the state. Democracy is well served by their efforts.