Honorary Minnesotans

A listing of individuals who were born and raised outside of Minnesota, but moved to Minnesota and made a significant contribution to life in Minnesota, and the rest of the world.

  • John Chun (North Korea)
    Car Designer; In the late 1960’s Chun was the designer of the iconic American car, the Shelby Cobra. He worked under Carrrol Shelby at the Shelby offices in Los Angeles, CA to develop the design for this racier vehicle. Then in 1972, Chun was hired by Tonka Toys (Minnetonka, MN) to join their design department. He relocated to Mound, Minnesota where he is still a full-time resident. Chun is also credited for creating the infamous Cobra styled logo used for the Shelby Cobra.
  • Charles Gilbert Gates (Chicago, Illinois)
    Stockbroker; Gates lived in Minneapolis for only a short time before passing away at age 37. In 1913 he built the largest and most expensive home in Minneapolis. Referred to as the “Gates Mansion”, it was also the first home in the United States to have air conditioning. Unfortunately, Gates passed away before his home was finished. The Gates Mansion was torn down about nineteen years later.
  • Cass Gilbert (Zanesville, Ohio; Lived in Minnesota for a total of twenty-six years)
    Architect; Designed the New York Custom House, the U.S. Supreme Court Building and many public buildings around the country including the Minnesota State Capitol. He is also the architect of the Woolworth Tower in New York City, the world’s tallest building from 1913 to 1930. Early pioneer of skyscraper architecture.
  • Joseph Philip Gomer (Iowa City, Iowa)
    A member of the infamous Tuskegee Airmen, the first group of African American pilots who fought in World War II. They were based in Tuskegee, Alabama. Gomer moved to Duluth, Minnesota in 1964 at age 44 to join the Air Defense Missile Squadron and still lives in Minnesota.
  • Harmon Killebrew (Payette, Idaho)
    Pro Baseball Player; The face of the Minnesota Twins from 1961 and on. Killebrew was an extremely active advocate of the Minnesota Twins organization, even after his playing days from 1954-1975. He hit 573 home runs during his career and was named to eleven MLB All Star teams. In 1969 he was the AL MVP. In 1984 he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first Minnesota Twin to achieve this honor.
  • Greg Lemond (Lakewood, California)
    Bicyclist; Lemond is the first American to win the Tour de France (in 1986). He was a repeat winner in 1989 and 1990. In 2012 Lemond became the only American to have legitimately won the Tour de France after Lance Armstrong was stripped of all his titles for doping. Lemond has called Minnesota home since the mid 1980’s.
  • Charles M. Loring (Maine)
    The “Father of the Park System” in Minneapolis, a park systems that at one time was called “the best-located, best-financed, best-designed, and best-maintained public open space in America.”. The Minneapolis Park Board Commission, led by Loring, set aside 1800 acres of land by the early 1900’s, before much of the city had been developed.
  • Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand)
    Current head coach of the University of Minnesota’s women’s volleyball team. McCutcheon lead the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team to a 106-39 record in his four years. Prior to that he coached the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team program to the 2008 Olympic Games gold medal. He is a former New Zealand national team volleyball player, and also played for Brigham Young University (from 1991-1993).
  • George Mikan (born in Joliet, Illinois; lived in Edina, MN until his death in 2005)
    Played with the Minneapolis Lakers (1949-56), a team that won the NBA Championship in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, and 1954. He was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959 and is considered the NBA’s first true superstar.
  • Mary Alfred Moes (born Remich, Luxembourg; came to Minnesota in about 1877)
    In September 1889, Mother Alfred Moes (a Franciscan nun), founded Saint Marys Hospital in Rochestor, MN., with Dr. William W. Mayo and his sons; Dr. William J. Mayo, and Dr. Charles Mayo. The hospital would go on to become the world famous Mayo Clinic.
  • George Nagobads (Latvia)
    Physician; U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Team physician for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Minnesota North Stars, St. Paul Fighting Saints, and five U.S. Olympic hockey teams. Was the watch keeper for the 1980 Miracle on Ice team after Herb Brooks declared that the only way the U.S. could beat the Russians was to keep fresh legs on the ice. Nagobads kept a close eye on the watch to ensure that line shifts occurred to accomplish this.
  • Lou Nanne (born 1941 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; came to Minnesota in 1960)
    Athlete/Manager. Played all 635 of his NHL games with the Minnesota North Stars. Became General manager and coach of the North Stars after his playing career ended in 1978. Played in 1968 Grenoble Olympics.
  • Ernest Carl Oberholtzer (Davenport, Iowa)
    A leading advocate for the preservation of the Quetico-Superior lake area, in 1925 Oberholtzer opposed plans by business mogul Edward Backus to construct a series of dams to harness the Rainy Lake watershed for power generation. Oberholtzer was one of the eight founding members of The Wilderness Society and served on its executive council from 1937 until 1967. The Minneapolis Star Tribune selected him as one of the 100 Most Influential Minnesotans of the 20th century. He lived most of his adult life in Minnesota.
  • Sigurd F. Olson (Chicago, Illinois)
    Author, Environmentalist; Olson most his life in Ely, MN. Olson was influential in the protection of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in northern Minnesota and helped establish the Voyageurs National Park, also in northern Minnesota. He served as president of both the National Parks Association and the Wilderness Society.
  • Clarence “Clancy” Prevost (Wellsboro, PA)
    Prevost is the flight instructor who became suspicious of student Zacharias Moussaoui, who had registered to learn to fly a 747-400 at the Pan-Am International Flight Academy in Eagan, MN. Prevost persuaded the flight school to contact the Minneapolis FBI Field Office which led to Moussaoui’s arrest and subsequent life in prison sentence for his role in the 911 attacks.
  • Kirby Puckett (Chicago, Illinois)
    Minnesota sports history. Kirby was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. He played his entire 12 year professional baseball career with the Minnesota Twins. He was a six-time Gold Glove winner, and named to 10 consecutive All-Star teams from 1986-95. His career ended way too early due to irreversible retina damage after being hit in the cheek by a pitch in 1995. In March 1996 he announced his retirement from MLB, but remained active in the Twins Organization. On March 5, 2006, he suffered a stroke at his home in Arizona and passed away the next day.
  • Ralph Rapson (Alma, Michigan)
    Rapson’s accomplishments in architecture and design span 70 years and connect the defining events and personalities of American Modernism. His modern designs included both furniture and buildings. In Minnesota he was best known as the designer of the original 1963 Guthrie Theater, but was first recognized nationally for his furniture designs in the 1940s for H.G. Knoll. Rapson move to Minnesota in 1954 and became the head of the architecture department at the University of Minnesota. He passed away in 2008.
  • Horst Rechelbacher (Klagenfurt, Austria)
    Environmentalist/Entrepreneur; founder of the Aveda Corporation (Minneapolis, MN), a beauty products company later sold to Estee Lauder in 1997. Vanity Fair magazine voted Horst as one of the most influential environmentalists in the U.S. in 1995 and 2005.
  • James Rosenquist (Grand Forks, North Dakota)
    Painter/Artist. Raised in Minnesota. Studied painting at the University of Minnesota from 1952 to 1954. Began career as a billboard painter, then applied his knowledge to large-scale, Pop Art paintings. Moved to New York City at the age of 21. Major figure in the Pop Art movement of the 1960’s.
  • Coleen Rowley (New Hampton, Iowa)
    Former FBI Agent; Rowley’s team in Minneapolis was responsible for the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, the first 911 conspirator arrested. In May 2002, Rowley testified in front of the Senate 9/11 Commission about intelligence failures leading up to 911. She became one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002.
  • Erich Sailer (Austria)
    Coach/Director of the Buck Hill Ski Racing Club in Burnsville, MN since 1969. Coached Minnesota natives (and Olympians) Lindsey Vonn and Kristina Koznick. Inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Marion W. Savage (born Ohio 1859, moved to Minnesota in 1886)
    Owned and guided the famous race horse “Dan Patch” to the pinnacle of harness racing and earned him the title “King of Pacers”. Dan Patch was kept at the Savage Racing Stables in Savage, MN during his racing day’s fame as well as after he retired. The town of Savage, MN is named in honor of Marion Savage.
  • Brian Setzer (Massapequa, New York)
    Musician; former member of the rockabilly group The Stray Cats, and now The Brian Setzer Orchestra. The 3-time Grammy-award-winner now calls Minneapolis home. The Stray Cats first big break in the U.S. came when they opened for the Rolling Stones at the St. Paul Civic Center in 1981. He is married to Julie Reiten, a Hopkins, MN native.
  • Sarah Susanka (Kent, England)
    Writer/Architect – See Authors/Writers.
  • William Windom (Belmont County, Ohio)
    Politician; Served as U.S. Representative from 1859 to 1869, U.S. Senator from 1870 to 1883. He was also the Secretary of the Treasury from March to November 1881, and from 1889-1891. In 1880, Windom received 10 votes as the Republican nominee for President of the U.S. but lost the nomination to James A. Garfield.
  • Albert Woolson (Antwerp, New York)
    Woolson was the last veteran of the U.S. Army Civil War to die. He enlisted in Company C, 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment and became the company’s drummer. After the war ended Woolson returned to Minnesota (where he was raised) and decades later passed away at the ripe old age of 109 (approx).
  • Andrew Zimmern (New York, New York)
    Chef, writer, teacher. Winner of the James Beard Award for “Outstanding TV Food Personality”. Zimmern (not “Zimmer”) moved to Minnesota in 1992. An acclaimed Chef, he is now widely known for his Travel Channel series “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” and “Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World”.

Honorary Minnesotans (non-resident)
Individuals who were NOT born (or raised) in Minnesota, but have lived in Minnesota for a short period of time.

  • Kofi Annan (Kumasi, Ghana)
    Secretary General of the United Nations 1996-2006. Completed his undergraduate studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Co-recipient of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Diablo Cody (Lemont, Illinois)
    Screenwriter, writer, blogger, journalist, and author. Best known for her critically acclaimed script of the 2007 film “Juno”, winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Began writing for City Pages in the early 2000’s, an alternative weekly paper based in Minneapolis, MN.
  • Sidney Crosby (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
    Hockey player. Attended Shattuck-Saint Mary’s School in Fairbault, MN during the 2002-2003 hockey season. Led the team to a U.S. National High School Championship. Currently plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL.
  • Tony Dungy (Jackson, Michigan)
    Quarterback for the University of Minnesota from 1973 to 1976. Also played basketball as a freshman. Defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. Coached the Indianapolis Colts to 2007 Super Bowl victory. Remains a huge supporter of the University of Minnesota.
  • Brett Hull (Belleville, Ontario)
    Hockey Player/Executive; Son of hockey great Bobby Hull, Brett played college hockey for two years at the University of Minnesota – Duluth. A former summer resident in Duluth, Hull has brought the Stanley Cup back to Duluth twice for celebrations after winning it with the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings.
  • Jonny Lang (Fargo, ND)
    Musician; gained attention while playing gigs at Bunkers in Minneapolis. He released his first album at age 15 on Minneapolis’ Oarfin Records. Lang would later go on to release his 1998 Grammy Nominated Album, “Wander This World”.
  • Tom (Thomas) McCarthy (New Jersey)
    Director, writer, actor; lived in Minneapolis for two-and-a-half years after college. Performed with the improv comedy troupe “Every Mother’s Nightmare”, and at the Guthrie Theater. Writer/Director on: The Station Agent (2003), The Visitor (2007), Win Win (2011). Writer on: Up (2009), dozens of film credits as an Actor.
  • Bobby McFerrin (New York)
    Vocalist and Conductor; best known for his 1988 #1 U.S. pop hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. McFerrin was the “Creative Chair” (and part-time conductor) of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra from 1994 – 1999.
  • Ann Nesby (Joliet, Illinois)
    Singer; R&B, gospel, and dance music. Gained notoriety as a lead vocalist for Minneapolis’s “Sounds of Blackness” but left to pursued a solo career. She earned four consecutive Top 5 hits on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart with “Hold On” (#5, 1997), “Love Is What We Need” (#2, 2000), “Lovin’ Is Really My Game” (#1, 2000) and “Let Your Will Be Done” (#3, 2002).
  • Nick Nolte (Omaha, Nebraska)
    Actor; More than 100 film/tv credits to his name. 1991 Golden Globe: Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama), The Prince of Tides. Acted at the Old Log Theater in Excelsior, MN between 1968-1971.
  • Barrie M. Osborne (New York, New York)
    Movie Producer; over 48 major film credits, including his production work on Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy. Graduated from Carlton College in Northfield, MN with a Sociology major.
  • Gordon Parks (Fort Scott, Kansas)
    Photographer, Film Director, Writer, Composer; One of the most influential photographers of the 20th century with many honors and awards, including the 2002 induction into the International Photography Hall of Fame. Parks moved to Saint Paul at fifteen years old and made a name for himself as a fashion photographer. He left Minnesota at about age 29, and later became the first black photographer to work at Vogue and Life magazines, and was the first black director to work for a major movie studio. His work captured the struggles and triumphs of black America. His family still lives in Minnesota.
  • Kristi Yamaguchi (Hayward, California)
    American figure skater and the 1992 Olympic Champion in women’s singles. Owns a home in Brainerd, MN with her husband Bret Hedican, a former NHL player and native Minnesotan from St. Paul, MN.
  • Yanni (Yiannis Hrysomallis) (Kalamata, Greece)
    Musician/Composer; Graduated from the University of Minnesota. While a student, Yanni joined an up-and-coming local group called “Chameleon” which became popular in the upper mid-west. He moved to California in pursuit of movie soundtrack work. Now an internationally acclaimed contemporary composer.

Comments

One Response to Honorary Minnesotans

  • This is an amazing list of people who made MN great. Though Major General Vang Pao (MGVP) had never lived in MN on a permanent basis he has brought the Hmong community to MN and personally had commuted between CA and MN the last 34 years until his death on Thursday, January 6th, 2011.

    MGVP was incharge of Military Region (MR) II and the US/CIA covert operation in Laos during the American War in Vietnam or aka the Indochina War II.

    Tzianeng Vang

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