2022–23 PDGR awards: From investigating insects to interpreting Shakespeare

UMRA’s Professional Development Grants for Retirees (PDGR) program provides funding for University retirees to continue their scholarship or to pursue new projects. It is a competitive program, and this year UMRA is pleased to award more than $41,000 to fund nine new applications. The projects reflect the U’s broad reach, and span statewide and internationally.

Ferolyn Angell, retired lecturer in dance, University of Minnesota Morris, and now a three-time PDGR award recipient, will develop a live dance theater performance and film focusing on the refugee experience, based on writings of a refugee from Nazi Germany and interviews with immigrants and refugees in modern times.

Vicky Demos, professor emerita of sociology, Morris campus, will travel to Melbourne, Australia, to attend the XX World Congress of Sociology and deliver a paper, “Church, State, and Women’s Rights in Greece from World War II to the End of the 20th Century.”

UMRA member Marilyn DeLong, professor emerita, College of Design, will develop enhancements for a textbook, finished just before the pandemic, which she co-authored for an undergraduate trends class in the College of Design. Student surveys of the class offered online during the pandemic provided positive evaluations and suggested refinements, to be developed with this grant.

Barbara Frey, former director of the College of Liberal Arts Human Rights Program, will record a series of 8 to 10 oral history video interviews of scholars and activists for the new Minnesota Human Rights (MHR) Archive, highlighting narrators with Minnesota connections who have worked on racial justice, women’s human rights, and anti-torture campaigns. Their stories will be used in the MHR Archive’s fall 2023 inaugural exhibit.

Ralph Holzenthal, retired professor of entomology, in collaboration with Dr. Blanca Patricia Rios-Touma of Universidad de las Americas in Ecuador, will study caddisflies from Ecuador. Caddisflies are freshwater insects whose aquatic larvae are important to rivers and lakes, and are used as biological indicators of water quality. Information on caddisfly diversity can be used to support conservation of Ecuador’s unique ecosystems.

UMRA member Michael Potegal, associate professor ad honorem of occupational therapy, plans to obtain statistical assistance in analyzing the temper tantrums of psychiatrically referred youth. The results would be clinically important because the progressive severity of tantrums may be associated with the general irritability and self-directed harm of the youth, their psychiatric diagnoses, degree of functional impairment in everyday life, and use of clinical services.

UMRA member and repeat PDGR awardee Wayne Potratz, professor emeritus, Department of Art, will use his grant to attend the 2023 National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark in Birmingham, Alabama, where he will chair a panel, participate in another panel, and conduct a workshop, “Steelmaking Using the Brick Hybrid Tatara.”

UMRA member Riv-Ellen Prell, professor emerita of American studies, will add an educational module to the website, to help users better understand the University’s new building renaming process. The website was developed alongside the 2017 exhibition, “A Campus Divided: Progressives, Anticommunists, Racism, and Antisemitism at the University of Minnesota 1930-1942,” whose research and curation Prell led.

UMRA member Madelon Sprengnether, Regents professor emerita of English, will explore how Shakespeare conveys the illusion of complex consciousness in dramatic form, and how his plays have influenced Western European ideas and attitudes (including those of Freud) about inwardness and individual self-consciousness.

Intended to support strong transitions into retirement, PDGR projects benefit both the retired person and, often, the University itself. Since its inception in 2009, the impact of the PDGR program has been both deep and wide.

Anyone who wishes to contribute financial support to the PDGR program can do so online at

—John Bantle, PDGR Committee chair



The election of UMRA officers and new board members for 2024–25 will be conducted via an online poll from May 13 to 19, with the results to be announced at our annual meeting on May 21. Look for the ballot in your email inbox on May 13. Diane Young has been nominated to be president-elect.