The Nov. 18 issue of the Star Tribune had two striking full-page ads honoring Pat Fallon. They appropriately and simply celebrated the contributions of an advertising industry leader and a good man. The Nov. 15 paper, meanwhile, had a small paid obituary noting the passing of Herbert Wright Jr., age 98. He was a regents professor of geology, ecology and botany at the University of Minnesota. There will be no full-page ads for Herb, but his passing is no less notable than that of Fallon. Both were giants in their field.

Wright was actually a giant in multiple fields and, while his focus was Minnesota, his scope was worldwide. Much of what we know today about Minnesota’s topography is due to his glacial-geology studies. Much of what we know about the prehistoric human environment of Minnesota is due to the limnological (lake sediment) studies done by Wright and his students. He took hundreds of students on hundreds of field trips to cut into gravel deposits left by glaciers or pull sediment cores from lake bottoms. On a national and international scale, he did fieldwork in the Chuska Mountains of New Mexico, on the coast of Lebanon, at Lake Zeribar in Iran, on glaciers in the St. Elias Mountains in the Yukon and in the Altai Mountains in Siberia.

Many scientific fields owe a great debt to Herb Wright. His work has been instrumental for glacial geology, limnology, climatology, paleoecology and archaeology. He wrote more than 200 scientific articles, edited many landmark volumes and supervised more than 70 graduate theses. His students are distributed among scientific and educational institutions worldwide. Most important, like Pat Fallon, Herb was a good man. He cared about his students and cared about their work. He continued working until the very end. His legacy of understanding the past will continue far into the future.

Scott Anfinson, St. Paul

The writer is Minnesota’s state archaeologist.


In some cases, ‘segregated’ care is best for the individual

The Nov. 8-12 series of articles on the segregation of people with disabilities in Minnesota was excellent in drawing attention to the many individuals with mild and moderate handicaps who are struggling to find meaningful work and lead more integrated lives in our communities. We strongly support these efforts. However, there is another side to the story that did not receive any notice — that of the many individuals in our state with severe and profound disabilities.

We wish it were otherwise, but our son is one of these individuals. He has uncontrollable seizures, severe cerebral palsy, profound intellectual deficiency, is incontinent, and cannot walk or talk. He requires full assistance in all areas of his life. Importantly, despite any and all adaptations and assistance, he is not nor will he ever be employable.

He lives in a “segregated” group home and attends a “segregated” day program. We believe that this is, for him, and others like him with the same degree of impairment and medical fragility, the better option than full community integration. Both programs have a nurse on site, employees trained to deal competently and compassionately with his needs, and the medical equipment necessary to care for him. He is treated with dignity and respect. He has friends.

Our son’s life is much fuller because of both of these programs. The benefits these programs offer him would not be possible if he were to be “fully integrated.” This is a case where one size does not fit all.

Steve Wojta and Sheryll Mennicke, St. Paul



Sounds appealing until you consider the fine print

As chairman of the Minnesota House of Representatives Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee, I read the Nov. 15 article “Solar gardens: A new choice for Xcel users” with great interest. Two observations:

First, nowhere in the article does the Star Tribune report on who will pay for all of this. Every dollar of “savings” for subscribers and profit for solar companies will come in the form of higher rates for other Xcel customers.

Second, the 2013 legislation creating solar gardens included no consumer protections for solar garden subscribers, unlike the highly regulated regular rates paid by Xcel customers. The article suggests that unhappy solar customers could appeal to the Public Utilities Commission. Unfortunately for consumers, the PUC has little authority to intervene.

For the moment, it’s buyer beware.

State Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington



We must not undermine efforts to provide carbon-free energy

In “Is hydropower green? Not really” (Nov. 15), Ron Way makes some good points in his commentary on the environmental and social impacts of harnessing energy from flowing water. What he fails to mention are any good alternatives as we wean our electric system off fossil fuels and how we can make these carbon-free alternatives more environmentally friendly.

Manitoba Hydro and the province of Manitoba have made incredible progress in designing new hydropower projects to have much less environmental impact and are also working with local aboriginal tribes for job training and the ability to benefit financially from these projects. Minnesota Power is breaking new ground with its latest Great Northern Transmission Line and contract with Manitoba Hydro to provide an environmentally sustainable energy diversity exchange contract so that Minnesota Power’s wind energy in North Dakota can be paired with Manitoba Hydro’s hydropower to greatly reduce wind power curtailments and have wind and hydropower work together to give Minnesota Power customers much more clean energy. We need to support these new efforts for carbon-free electricity.

Mike Gregerson, Plymouth



Here’s a name to consider at this key juncture for the school

I am glad Lori Sturdevant wrote about the upcoming selection of a new athletic director at the University of Minnesota (“University faces a big moment in AD pick,” Nov. 15). There should be no question that this pick will be a defining moment for the U. If the school chooses another white male, clearly the impression will be that it doesn’t feel there is a fundamental and longstanding problem within the athletic department.

The university desperately needs someone to restore credibility to a tarnished department. The right pick can regain the trust of supporters of women’s programs who are disgruntled. And it may assist the administration in dealing with its 2014 discrimination lawsuit.

Of all the names that are currently floating around, there’s one person whom I have not heard mentioned. Merrily Dean Baker has all of the qualifications and more. Merrily was the women’s athletic director at the U in the 1980s, before the two departments were merged. She went on to work at the NCAA as the assistant executive director, and she finished up her collegiate career as the athletic director at Michigan State University.

I think the U should offer her a two-year contract with a defined set of goals: Clean up the mess left behind, establish a clear line of contact within the department up through the president and hire a permanent athletic director. No need to pay $100,000 to a search firm. She’s more than capable of handling that assignment.

In addition, that gives interim AD Beth Goetz two years to be groomed for the job. And who better to learn from than one of the best in the business?

Betsy Larey, White Bear Lake