For 2023 grant year, the UMRA PDGR Committee reviewed 10 applications for Professional Development Grants for Retirees. The applications covered a diverse set of topics and goals. The PDGR Committee recommended that nine be funded in April 2023. The recipients represented the Morris and Twin Cities Campus. The awardees and grant abstracts are listed on the 2023 PDGR Abstracts page.


In mid-July, a hacker on the “dark web” claimed they had gained access to University records with more than seven million Social Security numbers. Here’s what you can do if you are concerned about the security of your records and online identity. 


Meet UMRA member Paul Ranelli, a man of many talents. His LinkedIn profile identifies him as professor emeritus, Santa Claus, photographer, voice talent, and public address announcer. Funny AND educated! 


With this year’s World Series coming up soon, UMRA member Ron Matross is savoring memories of sharing America’s pastime with his son at the old Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis in the 1980s. Those were glory days for the Minnesota Twins. 


UMRA members have logged nearly 200 hours of volunteer service to the University and broader community through the Silver Gopher Service Corps since its launch six months ago. 


How I learned, this summer, that my great aunt, one of my paternal grandfather’s sister, was included in a fresco at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  As far as I know she is the only relative of mine who is part of a fresco anywhere in the world.


Meet UMRA member Joni Mitchell, no relation to the “other” Joni Mitchell but there is an interesting connection.


Applications for UMRA’s 2024 Professional Development Grants for Retirees competition will be accepted beginning October 1. Funding of up to $5,000 per grant is available. 


Sneak Preview Days have been happening at the University for many years. This year, adding 18 UMRA Silver Gopher Service Corps volunteers put a new twist on the welcome. Who better to provide a friendly greeting and lend a helping hand than those of us who have spent our careers at the University?


One of the great benefits that come with UMRA membership is the discounted rate for parking in University parking facilities. Forgotten whether you’ve already renewed your UMRA membership for 2023–24? It’s easy to check online.


Eric Hockert and Ron Matross represented UMRA at the 2023 Big Ten Retirees Association Conference held at UW–Madison in late July. They enjoyed sharing ideas and practices with the other conference attendees, and came away with several ideas worth pursuing.


The UMRA Board has selected Midland Hills Country Club in Roseville as the location for five of our in-person luncheon forums in the coming year, in part because of the high marks those who attended last year’s forums gave the location for its food, service, and easy and free parking. 


As retirees, we are all learning to adapt to a world that seems to change on a daily basis. So, the editorial committee of the Journal of Opinions, Ideas & Essays (JOIE) is inviting UMRA members to share their thoughts on resilience via a short essay.



The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Homelessness is a housing problem

Tue, April 26 2022, 12pm

“The homeless problem is a housing problem,” according to Tim Marx, the informative and engaging speaker at the UMRA Forum on April 26, 2022. Speaking on the topic “Advancing the Public Good Through Housing,” Marx maintained that many challenges may increase the risk of homelessness (such as chemical dependence, ex-offender status, and domestic abuse), but the root cause of the homeless problem is the housing crisis.

Marx is a leading authority on homelessness in the Twin Cities, having served as president and CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 2011 to 2020 and, prior to that, as commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency from 2003 to 2008.  During his tenure at Catholic Charities, the organization dramatically rebuilt and expanded the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul to provide home, shelter, and services to more than 1,000 people per day.  

Except during the Great Depression, homelessness was not a significant problem in the U.S. until the mid to late 1980s, according to Marx. At that time, our country de-institutionalized health care for severe mental illness without providing housing alternatives, wiped out “flop houses” through urban renewal, and stopped investing in public housing. 

Upward trends threaten decades of progress

Once we recognized homelessness as primarily a housing problem, the U.S. made progress by implementing a “housing first” philosophy that emphasizes building more housing, with supportive financial assistance for renters and homeowners. However, trends for the unsheltered population have moved upward again since 2016, threatening decades of progress. 

The good news nationally is that homelessness among veterans has been nearly eliminated. Good progress also has been made with families. Those age 55 and older are experiencing the largest increase in homelessness, exacerbated by their loss of skills and connections. Unfortunately, among the homeless, Marx said, “50 is the new 75.”

Marx provided 2020 statistics showing that Minnesota ranks 17th in the U.S. in terms of the number of homeless people, with approximately 8,000. The states in the top ten are politically blue, red, and purple; the one thing they all have in common is a very tight housing market. According to Marx, Minnesota needs 55,000 more units across the state, and the Twin Cities are at risk of facing the same homeless challenges as Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland.

Throughout his presentation and the question-and-answer session that followed, Marx sought to put a face on the homeless. He referred to a man named Karl who frequented the Dorothy Day Center and inspired Catholic Charities’ work when he said, “Everybody here just wants a job and a place of their own.”  (See video). 

Marx closed by saying we need the political will as a nation to invest in more affordable housing, and he encouraged attendees to “advocate, donate and volunteer.”  

—Barbara Shiels, UMRA Program Committee member

Event recording
Click on , then    to view recording in full screen.




Advancing the public good through housing

Tue, April 26 2022, 12pm
Tim Marx
President emeritus
Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Event to be held via Zoom.

UMRA’s April 2022 Forum will feature Tim Marx, the long-time president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis (2011–20) and one of Minnesota’s leading authorities on the homeless crisis in the Twin Cities. He is most famously responsible for Catholic Charities Dorothy Day Place in St. Paul which provides homes, shelter, and services to more than 1,000 people a day. It is the largest public-private partnership in housing and social services in state history.

Marx will comment on the causes of homelessness, its extent, its context in relationship to other major poverty-related challenges, and solutions. He is uniquely qualified to speak on this topic not only because of his 10 years as the head of Catholic Charities but also because of his work as executive director of Breaking Ground in New York City, a housing and community development nonprofit aimed at providing supportive housing to the formerly homeless and special needs populations.

Marx also served as the commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (2003–08) and as St. Paul deputy mayor and city attorney (1994–98). He has dedicated his career to public policy, concentrating on solutions to homelessness in our communities.

A big talent lawyer and advocate

He graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1983 and earned a Master of Public Affairs from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in the same year. He engaged in the private practice of law at Briggs and Morgan (now Taft) for several years, representing and advising private, public, and nonprofit entities. He recently returned to the practice of law with the Winthrop & Weinstine law firm, which has a national affordable housing practice.

Marx is a big talent lawyer and public policy advocate who has devoted his considerable skills to advancing the public good, particularly with respect to the least fortunate in our community. 

Please register for this Zoom webinar and join us at 12 noon on Tuesday, April 26, to learn about homelessness and Tim Marx’s incredible advocacy.

—Bill Donohue and Barbara Shiels, UMRA Board members