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Academic Health Center Oral History Project

Learn, Elmer

Learn.JPGElmer Learn served on the faculty of the University of Minnesota's Department of Agricultural Economics from 1956 until 1969. In October 1964, President O. Meredith Wilson appointed Dr. Learn to chair the Committee for the Study of Physical Facilities for the Health Sciences. In this role, and as executive assistant to the President, Dr. Learn played a key role in the reorganization of the health sciences and the creation of the Academic Health Center.

Interview Abstract
Elmer Learn begins by describing his background and providing a brief summary of his career. He explains why he went into agricultural economics. He discusses his appointment as assistant to President O. Meredith Wilson in 1964 and his work in this position, including his work planning parking, as the coordinator of planning, as chair of the Committee for the Study of Physical Facilities for the Health Sciences, and working with the Regents. He discusses Communiversity and the Committee for the Study of Physical Facilities, including the subcommittee evaluations of the different health units, the influence of John Westerman, and the power structure and hierarchy within the committee. He describes the community attitudes toward the UMN president, the merging of the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses into the "Twin Cities campus", dealing with the Minnesota Legislature, the influence of the Mayo brothers, William G. "Jerry" Shephard, Don Smith, and Laurence Lundeen. He discusses Presidents Wilson and Malcolm Moos, including President Moos' appointment. He describes his reasons for leaving the UMN and his work at University of California, Davis, particularly the financial problems Davis' Medical School faced and its loss of accreditation.

Biographical Sketch
Elmer Learn was born in Syre, Pennsylvania, on January 19, 1929. He attended Penn State University and received his BS in 1950, his MS in 1951, and his Ph.D. in agricultural economics in 1957. Learn joined the University of Minnesota in 1956. He worked as Assistant Professor (1956-60), Associate Professor (1960-62), and Professor (1962-69) in the Department of Agricultural Economics. From 1963-64, he was head of the Department of Agricultural Economics. In September 1964, he was appointed Assistant to the President (under President O. Meredith Wilson) and Coordinator of Planning, and he remained in this position until 1968. In October 1964, President Wilson appointed him chair of the Committee for the Study of Physical Facilities for the Health Sciences. From 1968-69, he was the Director of Planning and Executive Assistant to the President. In 1969, he left the UMN and became the Vice Chancellor and Executive Assistant at the University of California, Davis. He resigned as Vice Chancellor in 1984 and returned to teaching agriculture. In 1993, he retired permanently. He is an agricultural economist with specializations in areas of agricultural prices, policy, and foreign trade. He served in the US Army from 1951-53.

Interview Transcript