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University of Minnesota and Law School Mourn Loss of Sandra Gardebring Ogren

JULY 30, 2010—Sandra Gardebring Ogren ('73), a former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and University of Minnesota Vice President for Institutional Relations, died July 20 at her home in San Luis Obispo, Calif., at age 63. She had struggled with cancer for several years but continued to do the work she loved, said her husband, Paul Ogren.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1973, Gardebring Ogren served as special assistant attorney general for four years, then turned her attention to the environment. She was a commissioner for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 5 enforcement division between 1977 and 1984.

Gov. Rudy Perpich appointed Gardebring Ogren to chair the Metropolitan Council in 1984 and to serve as a commissioner in the Minnesota Department of Human Services in 1986. In her human services role, she met her future husband, then a Minnesota state representative. She won him over and he ended up supporting the legislation she proposed, Ogren notes.

Gardebring Ogren was appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 1989, and in 1991 she began seven years of service on the Minnesota Supreme Court. In 1998 he surprised many observers by giving up her position on the bench to become a vice president at the University of Minnesota, overseeing public and alumni relations, fund-raising, and lobbying efforts.

"I loved being a judge," she said in a 2003 interview for Law Alumni News, "but I finally decided that I need to get back into the thick of things. Perhaps it's an illustration that lawyers can do lots of different things. I'm kind of the poster child for using the law in lots of different settings."

One more use for her talents opened up in 2004, when the president of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo offered Gardebring Ogren the job of Vice President for Advancement. She held the position until her retirement in June.

Gardebring Ogren is remembered widely for her commitment to public service, her active participation in Minnesota government and the judiciary, and her dedication to higher education. She was a mentor to law clerks during her years on the Supreme Court, and she served the Law School as a judge for the annual William E. McGee National Civil Rights Moot Court Competition. Known for her readiness to take on new challenges, she directed her energies and devotion to the public sector throughout her life.

She is survived by her husband, Paul, and two stepchildren, Sam and Shana.

Portrait of Sandra Gardebring Ogren

Sandra Gardebring Ogren ('73)

Credit: California Polytechnic State University