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Former Carleton Professor, U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone Killed in Plane Crash

October 25, 2002

Paul Wellstone, a former professor of political science at Carleton College and United States senator, died Friday, Oct. 25 in a plane crash in northern Minnesota. His wife, Sheila, his adult daughter, Marcia, and several staff members and pilots also died in the crash.

"The death of Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila, his daughter Marcia and others last Friday is at once a family tragedy and a state and national tragedy, and it has been felt and continues to be felt very deeply here on the Carleton campus," said President Robert A. Oden Jr.

"Senator Wellstone was a legendary teacher and colleague; his students across the country join his many colleagues and friends at Carleton and in Northfield, Minn., in our feeling of a loss which cannot be recovered. We are all mourning and we all remain in a state of shock. This tragedy is simply numbing for so many at Carleton and in Northfield, as it is, we know, for so many across the country and across the globe. We extend our sympathy to Senator Paul and Sheila Wellstone's family, for all whose lives they touched and made immeasurably the richer. Our numbness may end; our sadness will not," Oden said.

On Friday, February 28 and Saturday, March 1, 2003, Carleton will host a weekend symposium to honor the life and work of Paul and Sheila Wellstone. The symposium will focus on three aspects of Paul and Sheila's work: teaching and mentoring; grassroots organizing and activism; and national politics. Planners hope to bring in a national political leader to deliver a Convocation talk on the impact of Paul's work in politics. Community organizers, activists, alumni, and current students will be invited to give workshops and talks throughout the weekend about their work in activism, teaching, and electoral politics. An interfaith service on social justice and a concert featuring campus groups and other artists enjoyed by the Wellstones are also being planned. Oral histories will be taken throughout the weekend.

The symposium is in the development stages. For more information, click here.

The Paul and Sheila Wellstone Fund for Community Engagement is being established with gifts received in memory of Paul and Sheila Wellstone. The purpose of this endowed fund is to perpetuate the Wellstone legacy of grassroots organizing and political activism in Carleton students by providing a flexible source of support primarily for the following two purposes:

  • stipends for students to pursue opportunities in community organizing, issue advocacy, and political activities;
  • inviting activists, organizers, and political leaders to campus for lectures, symposia and workshops

To post or read remembrances of Paul Wellstone, click here.

Wellstone was a passionate teacher who inspired students, as well as faculty and staff, to follow their convictions. A professor at Carleton from 1969-90, Wellstone taught courses like Social Movements and Grassroots Organizing and the Politics of Reindustrialization. He also served as volunteer assistant wrestling coach at Carleton for many years, and served as head coach for the 1982-83 season.

At a memorial service on Friday, Oct. 25, faculty, staff, students and alumni remembered the Wellstones as good friends and good people. Paul's colleagues discussed his enthusiasm for teaching, and former students recalled the impact Paul had on their lives.

Joe Nathan '70, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for School Change and a student of Wellstone in 1969, told the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, "He was a demanding teacher fond of telling students that just because he was liberal didn’t mean he was easy. Whether students were liberal or conservative didn’t matter. He pushed us to think about what we could do to make change in the world," Nathan said in the article.

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