In Memory

Professor Emeritus Vilis Kurmis

Vilis Kurmis (M.S. Forestry '63, Ph.D. Forestry '69) of Minneapolis, passed away peacefully on November 26, 2016 surrounded by family, at age 94. Survived by his wife of 67 years, Irma; sons, Maris and Arnie; grandchildren, Emily, Lucas, Brita and Aldis; and great-grandchildren, Vilis and Talis.

Vilis was born in Latvia in 1922. He emigrated to Minneapolis in 1960, and earned his Masters degree in Forestry in 1963 and a PhD in Forest Ecology at the University of Minnesota in 1969. His career at the University spanned 30 years and took him from Research Assistant to Associate Professor. Upon retirement, he was bestowed the title of Professor Emeritus. After retirement, he continued to teach summer sessions at the University's Forestry and Biological Station in Itasca State Park. There, his favorite activities were researching, teaching, fishing and walking in the woods. One of his students wrote, "If the measure of a teacher is his ability to open students' eyes and minds, then Vilis Kurmis is among the very best teachers I have had." He was a great teacher not only to his students, but also to his children and grandchildren. To read more, visit here. 

Nick Lilleberg

Nickolas Glenn Lilleberg (B.S. Animal & Plant Systems '97), 42, of Atwater, died Saturday, December 10th, 2016 at Rochester Methodist Hospital. Nick courageously battled Hodgkin's Lymphoma for over three years.

Nickolas Glenn Lilleberg was born in 1974 in Willmar to Stan and Barb (Miller) Lilleberg. He attended school at St. John’s Lutheran School in Atwater until the eighth grade before graduating from Atwater-Grove City High School in 1993. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1997, where he was a proud member of Alpha Gamma Rho on the St. Paul campus. On August 7, 1999, Nick married Kristi Lien in Northfield. They lived in Mankato, where Nick worked for BASF as a Chemical Rep. Nick truly loved the farm and could not wait to get back to the soil. In 2002, they moved back to Atwater and Nick started farming with his dad, joined by his brother, Erik, in 2007. Lilleberg Farms received the 2014 Soil Conservation award and also the 2016 Farm Family of the Year award. Nick was active in the church council, a Cub Scout leader, a basketball coach, and a faithful dance supporter. He loved to ice fish with his brothers and boys, spend time at his cabin on Green Lake with his family, play with his children, laugh with friends, take trips to BWCA with college buddies, and fix anything that needed fixing. His greatest accomplishment was the girl he married. To read more, visit here. 

Gertrude Esteros

Gertrude Esteros (School of Agriculture '31, B.S. High School Education '36, M.S. High School Education '41), who for three decades led what is now the Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel, died on December 2nd. She was 102.

During her time at the University of Minnesota, Esteros served in a variety of positions, from instructor to professor to division chair. She headed the Department of Related Arts, as it was then called, from 1949 to 1979 and built it into a dynamic design department. Under her leadership the department developed professional degree programs and expanded its research. She also oversaw the expansion of McNeal Hall and the Goldstein Museum.

Esteros retired from the University in 1980 and in 1993 she was awarded an Outstanding Achievement Award by the Regents of the University of Minnesota. Calling her a “visionary and driving force,” the award was in recognition for her work on the Goldstein Gallery. It is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a graduate.

For more information on Gertrude visit here. To hear Gertrude's exciting adventures from WWII click this link, or if you would like to learn more about her,  visit this link. 

Dr. Donald White

Dr. Donald B. White, 86, of White Bear Lake, a professor of turfgrass at the University of Minnesota, and father of CFANS Associate Dean Mike White, passed away on December 23. Throughout his distinguished career, he had a significant impact on the turfgrass industry locally, nationally and internationally. White began teaching at the University of Minnesota in 1961, where he taught several courses related to turfgrass science, landscape design and nursery management to many of today's gp;f superintendents throughout Minnesota and the United States.

As a scientist, White's most important contribution to turfgrass research was the development of a commercially viable annual bluegrass, Poa annua. His research led to the release of the first creeping bluegrass in 1997, and is being used by golf courses throughout the world including Pebble Beach. As an environmentalist, he was a huge proponent of prairie grasses and reduced impact grasses, later called “sustainable” turf. As an educator, his 45 years of passionate education touched many individuals who became professionals in the turf industry, both on and off the golf course. Before the USGA offered their on-course turf advisory services, White was providing consulting services on his own time to courses all across the Midwest.

His leadership served the game well and his contributions to education and research made a lasting impact on golf course superintendents in Minnesota and beyond. In 2006, the MGA and the Minnesota Section PGA recognized White’s career contributions by electing him into the Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame. In 2013, the MGA recognized White with its highest award, the Warren J. Rebholz Distinguished Service Award

For more information, and to leave a message of condolences, visit this link.