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    As a non-native Minnesotan, it can sometimes be hard to break into social circles in Minneapolis. However, one place I never felt alienated was in the company of Gary DeCramer. From the moment I first met him, I knew that he not only took students seriously but welcomed them into the Humphrey school with energy, enthusiasm, and warmth. He always welcomed me into his office to share a concern or a question. He remembered small facts about my home state and my husband. He truly made me feel listened to, welcomed, and appreciated.

    I first met Gary while I was working on microeconomics with a classmate, Micah Intermill. Micah and Gary exchanged conversation about books they had read and caught up on news since the last time they had met. I was amazed at the little details he remembered about Micah, and vice versa. He truly cared and remembered what it was that made each person light up inside.

    I got to know Gary as part of the Faculty Curriculum Committee. He was always quick to respond to needs and feedback of MPA students. He was always searching for ways to improve his practice as a teacher. I was stunned by his spirit of continuous learning and improvement, and most importantly, his role in the lives of his students. In my time gathering feedback from MPA students about their experience here at the Humphrey school, students have almost always shared this with me - that Gary DeCramer was their mentor, their advocate, but above all, their friend.

    How often is that a student is blessed with a teacher who nurtures not only the academic, intellectual, and theoretical growth of a student, but also puts his time and energy into cultivating a community of students who care about each other? It is a rare thing indeed, but Humphrey students had it in Gary. We will miss him every day.

    - Molly Sullivan

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    I feel compelled to share this note w/ you that fully illustrates the "reach of Gary" -- I shared the news of Gary's passing w/ two incoming MPAs from Mayo -- one of them just wrote me this portion of a longer note:

    I shared the news with my dad ... one of those "farmers in the Midwest" ... and he shared a personal story about how Gary helped him with a border issue re livestock policies (my family farms on the MN/SD border). He said Gary actually helped change a lot of policies regarding livestock sanitation issues/policies for the entire state, including those who live on borders. He was impressed with his commitment to understand the issue and make all the connections.
    Share as you see fit as our hearts heal.

    Thanks, Chris Gade

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    I do hope MPA students and others can find a way to do something meaningful to honor Gary. Having had two classes with him meant a lot, he was a wonderful role model and mentor to many of us. Please keep us advised as to what needs to be done to make sure something happens.

    Ann Fleming
    MPA Candidate

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    Thank you. I needed to hear about Gary again today, as each day brings sadness that he is gone and comfort that, together we keep his spirit alive.

    Tracy Moore

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    I wish to thank all the Dean's office staff that were involved in getting the email about Gary DeCramer's death out as soon as possible to alumni. While it was a great shock and very painful for me, I am very grateful I learned about from you, whomever you are, and regardless of how many people were involved in letting me know. Thank you to all the staff that got the message together and sent. Gary meant a great deal to me, and I'm glad I heard about it from 'family' members and not on the news (I would have had a terrible time if I heard it while driving).

    Thank you, for the quick, concise, complete as possible and thoughtful note. It can't have been easy to do, but I really appreciate your efforts and thoughtfulness.

    Stuart Macdonald

    PS: And isn't the random quote below a fun reflection of Gary's spirit?

    "If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationship – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together in the same world, at peace." -President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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    He was my adviser and a wonderful man whose caring and kindness cannot be replaced. Shema Tova.

    Joseph Goldman, PhD

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    Gary was a man of impressive stature and gentle heart. I will always be grateful for his sage advice, unwavering guidance, and incredible kindness. He was a mentor and friend, and I will truly miss him.

    If any of you know how I may be of assistance to Estelle, Louise, Katy, or anyone of you, please call on me.

    I am sorry for your loss, and the unbelievable loss to the Humphrey community.

    Eric Balcerzak
    651-357-7316

  • I had only barely gotten to know Gary as an adviser, and sadly never got to know him as a professor, but the profound care with which he handled his work and the affairs of his students shone through even the briefest interaction. I've only been a part of the Humphrey community for six months, and it is clear how much he'll be missed.

  • As a mid-career professional who had been away from academia for twenty years, the idea of returning to student life was a bit intimidating. Having Gary present at each step of the way encouraging with his kind, gentle, positive and supportive words and gestures made the journey possible.

    Gary was there at the pre-application informational session. He was there at the orientation session. He was there as the instructor for my first class. He was there so full of interest and care and concern, encouragement and enthusiasm for all his students and for all who entered Humphrey. He approached his work with such openness and humility.

    We have truly lost a genuine leader and a model for all that we are striving to achieve at the Humphrey. Gary's heart-felt presence and enthusiastic influence will be greatly missed throughout the halls of Humphrey and beyond. His approach to the issues of the world was always one filled with hope and faith and trust that people can work together to create change. It just seemed to be a given in his view. Thank you, Gary, for that assumption.

    My condolences go out to his family about whom I learned from the first night I met him and whom he obviously loved dearly.

    Peggy McKenna
    MPA candidate

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    I had the privilege of being in the first MPA cohort, a program developed by Gary and Jodi Sandfort. This was a visionary program which made it possible for many mid-career, working professionals to further our education. Gary taught us a lot, but more importantly he inspired us. It was an honor to be his student and I will carry the gifts I received from him with my always.

    Thank you Gary. We will miss you.

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    I'll remember Gary both as a compassionate State Senator and a great professor. He was a key reason why I joined the MPA program. His openness with his personal story was so insightful and made us appreciate him as a wonderful role model for public service. Gary was authentic in his concern for the world and all of us. We felt his love and we loved him. We miss him dearly.

    Paul D. Erickson



Gary DeCramer, a senior lecturer and director of the mid-career Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program, died suddenly on March 7, 2012, while on a trip to Morris, Minnesota. He was 67.


DeCramer joined the Humphrey School in 1992. Before leading the MPA program and teaching courses on leadership, DeCramer served as a state senator representing the southwestern region of Minnesota, as state director of USDA Rural Development, principal planning analyst for Hennepin County's Office of Planning and Development, senior fellow in the Humphrey School's State and Local Policy Program and the University of Minnesota's Center for Transportation Studies, and interim president of Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota.

We welcome all to leave memories or condolences in the respective category, as we all mourn this tremendous loss.

Please e-mail hhhevent@umn.edu with any questions.



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