Letter to the Editor: Drawing comparisons between accomplished pair

To the Editor:

Is there something about the water in small town northeast Iowa... benefiting Minnesota and the world?

Upon researching the history of Waukon’s Michael Osterholm, I am struck by the uncanny life and career similarities between him and another of Iowa’s famous sons and University of Minnesota’s most highly esteemed alumni, 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate the late Dr. Norman Borlaug.  Dr. Osterholm, of course, is a current world-renowned professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University.

Both individuals were born and raised in northeast Iowa, Borlaug on a farm near Cresco, a town of just under 4,000 inhabitants where he attended high school; Osterholm in Waukon, also a town of just under 4,000, located 40 miles east of Cresco. Both were high school athletes and scholars of modest  accomplishment (undersized football linemen, questionable college prospects).  Both were unassuming persons of  Scandinavian American Lutheran heritage. Both experienced significant, but different, stressors in their lives growing up.

Both ultimately found their academic legs as undergrads, went to graduate school at the University of Minnesota and earned doctorates in scientific disciplines. Both became internationally acclaimed leaders in their respective fields of expertise.

Faced with dire threats to mankind, both credited with bodies of work saving countless lives. And, both experienced pronounced challenges to their work, including death threats, from some circles. Borlaug prevailed and always remained loyal to his roots in Iowa and at the University of Minnesota.  Osterholm very much continues to do so as well.

Don Henry, PhD
Retired psychologist/
administrator, Cresco native, alumnus of
University of Minnesota, resident of Saint Paul, MN


Rate this article: 
Average: 4.4 (15 votes)