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Book coverBlack Aperture, the first book of published poems by Matt Rasmussen (BF’09), was chosen as a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award, a contest he entered with a little boost from his Bush Fellowship.

“I paid for the entry out of the communications fund that I also used to set up my website,” says Rasmussen, who admits it was “surreal” to find himself in the running for the country’s most prestigious poetry prize. “I think the lesson I’ve learned is that you have to enter if you want to win. Without that Fellowship funding, I’m not sure I would have taken the initiative to send it in.”

A winner of the 2014 Minnesota Book Award and 2012 Walt Whitman Award, Rasmussen spent 10 years working on the poems in this collection about his brother’s suicide, a debut the National Book Award jurists praised as “pitiless, essential and keen as birth.”

You can hear Matt Rasmussen read from Black Aperture at the National Book Award Finalists reading at


The Enchanted Highway
North Dakota Tourism

Self-taught scrap-metal sculptor Gary Greff (BF’04) of Regent, North Dakota, just added another attraction to the Enchanted Highway, a 32-mile stretch of super-sized installations he began building along Interstate 94 three decades ago. Not another sculpture, but a new 90-room hotel he calls “The Enchanted Castle.”

“The whole idea behind the Enchanted Highway was to bring people to town, so we always thought about having a place where they could stay,” says Greff, 65, who gave an abandoned school building a medieval castle makeover. “The Enchanted Highway is unique, so we knew we couldn’t have a cookie cutter hotel to go with it.” Watch a short video about Greff’s project at

Keri Pickett’s (BF’92 & ’10) documentary The Fabulous Ice Age earned “Best of Fest” honors at the Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Film Festival. Inspired by her uncle, the former figure skater Roy Blakey (who is not pictured in this still from the documentary), the film chronicles the golden era of touring ice shows. Watch the trailer for The Fabulous Ice Age at
The Fabulous Ice Age still

Joining the Bush Foundation since 2013 are (from left) Dominick Washington as communications director, Allison Barmann as vice president of strategy and learning, Maya Beecham as education team coordinator, Kayla Yang-Best as education director and Lars Leafblad as leadership and engagement director.
New Staff

Five quick facts about Foundation Board member Michael Solberg
  1. mIKE sOLBERGA FAMILY GUY. Michael and his wife, Charleen, live in Fargo in a household busy with the activities of their children—Grace (10), Charlie (8) and Rose (6)—whom they traveled to China to adopt in 2009.
  2. PRESIDENT OF A GROWING COMPANY.  In 2004, Michael joined Bell State Bank & Trust as its chief operating officer; in 2009, he was named president. The family-owned company is the largest independently owned bank in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
  3. A BELIEVER IN GREAT WORKPLACES.  Michael has helped guide Bell State Bank & Trust through unprecedented growth during his tenure, at the same time the Bank has received regional and even national recognition as a great place to work.
  4. AN EVANGELIST FOR PAYING IT FORWARD.  In 2007, Michael and Charleen launched the Bank’s groundbreaking Pay It Forward program. Annually, every full-time employee receives $1,000 (part-timers get $500) to personally pay forward to those in need. Plus, each employee can choose a customer, vendor or community member to receive $1,000 to pay forward to someone in need or to invest in a cause they care about. To date, the program has paid forward more than $5 million.
  5. A PROUD MIDWESTERNER. Born in Finley, North Dakota, raised in Fargo, and a graduate of both Concordia College (Moorhead, Minnesota) and William Mitchell College of Law (Saint Paul), Michael believes that the Midwestern work ethic, strong faith and dedication to community and philanthropy make North Dakota the best place to build a business, a family and a life.

Jen Alstad and Lars Leafblad both made Minnesota Business magazine’s list of “The (Real) Power 50” in May 2013. Alstad, a member of the Foundation’s Board, is the CEO and founder of bswing, a Minneapolis-based research and design firm. Leafblad is the Foundation’s leadership and engagement director.

Several staff members began new responsibilities in 2013: Stephanie Andrews became the leadership development director, Mandy Ellerton became manager of the Bush Prize, Brian Fier joined the Communications Team as an associate, Molly Matheson-Gruen became manager of the Community Innovation Grants and Rachel Orville transitioned from consultant to associate on the Community Innovation Team.

Allison Barmann, vice president of strategy and learning, was named to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s “40 Under 40,” just weeks after joining the Foundation in March 2013. In March 2014, she was also named a Cross Sector Leadership Fellow by Presidio Institute (

The Foundation welcomed DeAnna Cummings to its Board of Directors in February 2014. Read more about this amazing 2007 Bush Fellow who leads the Bush Prize-winning Juxtaposition Arts.

The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network named John Fetzer, associate on the Native Nations Team, to its inaugural cohort of Leadership Institute Fellows. The experience is aimed at encouraging exploration of participants’ big career questions while doing some serious skill swapping and network weaving across the local foundation and nonprofit worlds.

Eric Jolly, president of the Science Museum of Minnesota and a Foundation Board member, just began a four-year appointment by President Obama to the National Museum and Library Services Board. The voluntary board advises the director of the Institute for Museum and Library Services on general policy and practices, and on selections for the National Medals for Museum and Library Service.

Foundation Board member Robert J. Jones was installed as the 19th president of the University at Albany-SUNY in September 2013. He had served as senior vice president for academic administration in the University of Minnesota System since 2004.

Catherine Jordan left the Foundation in March 2013 to assist a new experiential-based charter school, Upper Mississippi Academy, with the creation of fundraising plans. She is currently consulting with Circus Juventas, the largest youth performing art circus school in North America, to expand its facility and endowment. Jordan is also organizing a coalition to launch an annual Climate Walk to raise community awareness, build political will and generate financial contributions to improve climate justice and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Jane Leonard left the Foundation in March 2013 to start her own community and rural development consultancy, do grant review for the Otto Bremer Foundation and teach at Metropolitan State University. She continues to work on community change and leadership network development with colleagues around the country; check out her adventures at

Rebecca Martin left her work with the Education Team in November 2013 to move to Wisconsin. She’s now working as operations manager for Nature’s Pathways magazine where she “continues to be passionate about bringing individuals in the community together to share knowledge and resources, and to become empowered to create the lives they dream about.”

The Bush Foundation and Minnesota Philanthropy Partners co-located in 2013 to share expenses and space—now we’re also sharing an employee: Beth Norris, the Foundation’s part-time receptionist and office assistant, took a position with GiveMN, the Minnesota Philanthropy Partners affiliate behind Give to the Max Day.

D. Donald Peddie, the first director of the Bush Leadership Fellows Program from 1966 to 1989, passed away in March 2013. A long-time human resources executive at the Star Tribune, Peddie was instrumental in helping drive many Bush Fellows to his alma mater of Harvard University and recruiting potential students across the Midwest.

In April, Jaime A. Pinkham testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of Rep. Betty McCollum on the work that he leads for the Foundation as vice president for Native nations.

Alice Sanborn
  Alice Sanborn

Alice Sanborn retired from the Foundation in June 2013 after serving as assistant director of the Bush Medical Fellows Program since 1999, assisting with the application, selection and mentoring of more than 100 Bush Medical Fellows.

Alfonso Wenker joined the Minnesota Council on Foundations in January 2014 as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion. In 2013, Wenker served as “founding fellow” of the philanthropy fellowship program the Bush Foundation began in partnership with MCF. In his new role, Wenker will also help to expand the resulting MCF Philanthropy Fellowship to other foundations.

Ann Yelich, the Foundation’s long-time human resources consultant, moved her business to Nashville, Tennessee, in March 2014. She led the search process for more than half of the Foundation’s current staff.


Bill Gates and Jen Ford Reedy
Photo courtesy of Concordia College

"It’d be tragic to give money and not have it be fun,” Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said in April 2013, at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, in conversation with Bush Foundation President Jen Ford Reedy. The exchange was part of the dedication festivities for the Grant Center, home of the Offutt School of Business and Barry Auditorium.