Copyright © by Richard S. Hanson, 03/15/2008. All rights reserved.

Richard Hanson
Richard Hanson

I was born November 14, 1935.  Doreothe Glynn, my wife, was born March 21, 1935 in Platte at the same hospital that I was.  Her family included in addition to her father and mother (John and Helena Glynn) Katherine, William, Mary, Irene and Doreothe in order of birth.  Our families attended St. Peter’s Catholic Church, we went to catechism classes together for a couple of weeks in the summer, we were in the same first communion class and the same Platte High School graduating class in 1953.

After graduating from high school, I attended South Dakota State University for 9 months and was drafted into the Army.  I received basic training and went to radar school at Ft. Bliss Texas, and served near Fairbanks Alaska.  I was in the Army about 22 months until August 1956 and returned to South Dakota State University on the GI Bill of Rights.  I married Doreothe in December 1956 and we have three children (Michael born in 1965, Stephen 1965, and Thomas 1970).  We rented an apartment in Brookings, SD that was very nice but too expensive for our income at the time (1956).  Doreothe worked in a ladies clothing store.  We bought a small trailer house while waiting for space in University Doreothe Hanson
Doreothe (Glynn)

married student housing.  I have no pictures of the trailer.  Needless to say, we were not proud of our housing during that year.

We moved to the married student housing and had great neighbors and a comfortable living space with one bedroom, living room and kitchen. I received a B.S degree from South Dakota State University in 1959. We went to Urbana, Illinois where I intended to take a M.S. degree in Microbiology. We lived in an apartment in Urbana across a street from my laboratory, which allowed me to sleep at home, get up during the night and take samples for an experiment and go back home to bed.  Things went well and I continued on for a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana Illinois, which I completed in 1962. Doreothe worked in the registrar’s office at the University of Illinois during my graduate training.  I worked as a postdoctoral trainee first in chemistry at the Northern Regional Research Laboratories of the USDA in Peoria, Illinois on a National Research Council Fellowship, while waiting out my Ph.D. residency requirement in 1962.  We then went to France in the spring of 1963 where I worked as a Postdoctoral trainee studying the regulation of metabolism in bacteria at the CNRS laboratories in Gif-Sur-Yvette France about 20 miles south of Paris in 1963-1964.

  I was supported by a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship.  We lived for a short time in an apartment in the beautiful village of Palaiseau, then a small house in Gif-Sur-Yvette.  For our last 3-4 months, Richard & Doreothe Hanson's 50th Anniv.
Richard & Doreothe Hanson's
50th Anniversary.

27 Dec 2006
Doreothe found an apartment on the Isle Saint Louis in Paris.  This was a remarkably beautiful place to live and explore the heart of Paris.  Doreothe went to school at L’Alliance Francaise in Paris to study French most of the time we were in France.  The trains were very convenient and inexpensive for travel between Paris and Gif-Sur-Yvette.

My first faculty position was as an Assistant Prof. of Biochemistry at the University of Illinois Medical School in Chicago from 1964-1966.  I then went to the University of Wisconsin/Madison in December 1965 where I became a professor of Bacteriology in 1970 and later Chair of the Department (1972-77).  I kept administrative duties in the Molecular Biology Program until 1980.  We moved to the University of Minnesota/Minneapolis where I was Director of the Gray Freshwater Biological Institute and Professor of Microbiology in the Medical School in 1981.  We lived in the very nice and congenial village of Deephaven about 15 miles west of Minneapolis until 1999.  I resigned as director of the institute in 1990 and moved into the medical school.  We moved our residence to a condominium near the St. Paul campus.  I retired in 2004.

Our children were active in athletics, Tom and Stephen both played soccer during summers and on high school teams in Madison and at Minnetonka High School in Minnesota.  Stephen was an all-state selection.  Michael became involved in horseback riding and other activities.  Doreothe became a congressional certified braille transcriber to help Michael when we lived in Madison and transcribed material for Michael and other blind students.  I was a soccer coach and enjoyed refereeing games.  We were involved in many activities and enjoyed camping trips and fishing.  We had a boat on lake Minnetonka near our home.  We fished for bass and pike often.  We took summer camping trips and later the boys and I went to Montana to fly-fish on the rivers near Bozeman and in Yellowstone Park.  Doreothe went when we rented rooms in a motel or lodge.  The two stays in Seattle, where I taught a summer course and spent a sabbatical leave doing research, involved many camping trips and trips on ferries to visit islands or interesting places.  They were two very pleasant experiences where we stayed in nice rented homes and made wonderful friends.

Mike, Steve, Thomas Hanson
Mike, Steve & Tom Hanson
30 Dec 2006

Michael, our first son, was born February 20, 1965 in Illinois.  He received his B.S. degree in Psychology from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN. And worked for 5 years as a human resources counselor at the H.B. Fuller company in Arden Hills, MN.  He received an M.S. degree in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Minnesota, and later opened a home brewing supply business with his parents in Minneapolis.  He began law school at The University of St. Thomas School of Law in 2002, and graduated with a J.D. degree in 2005.  He became a member of the Minnesota Bar in September 2005.  Michael married Bridget Murphy in June 2001 and they lived in St. Louis Park, MN.  They are divorced.

Stephen our second son was born very soon after our arrival in Madison Wisconsin (12/25/1965) when I took a position in the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin.  Three children were born to Stephen (born 12/25/1965) and Kristen Gemelke Hanson (born 11/14/1968): Ryan (6/20/1995), Corrine (7/13/1998), and William (11/04/2001).  All the children were born in Madison, WI.  Kristen and Stephen both received their B. S. degrees in Bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin.  Kristen was a human genetics counselor (M.S. degree from Wisconsin) at the University of Wisconsin when Stephen did his PhD and postdoctoral studies in Plant Pathology, Molecular Biology and virology.  They now live in Las Cruces, NM.  Stephen is a molecular biologist/virologist on the faculty at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces in the Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Sciences.

Thomas (born 7/31/70) lives in Newark, DE.  He received his B.S. degree in Bacteriology at Wisconsin, his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of California/Davis, and did postdoctoral work with Prof. Bob Tabita at Ohio State Univ.  He is now on the faculty at the University of Delaware in Marine Biology-Biochemistry.  His domestic partner, Erin Mack, is also a microbiologist with a Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Davis.  She works for Dupont in Wilmington DE, about 10 minutes from the University of Delaware.  They live in Newark, DE.  Michael continues his interest in hiking and has developed good programs using GPS and a speech programmed guidance unit to help him find locations on trails or in the city.  He has been involved with an outdoor organization called Wilderness Inquiry and has gone on several trips with them to the Yukon territories, Mt. Rainier, Washington, to the northern US lakes and rivers in the Rocky Mountains.  They would hike, canoe and climb on the trips.  He is currently president of a group of about 350 persons, Capable Partners, where capable hunters and fishermen assist handicapped persons.  He has hunted turkey, deer, pheasant, moose, geese, ducks and this past year (2007) he shot a 900 lb. elk while on a hunting trip in northern Minnesota.  The group is now a model for similar international groups.  He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Langenfeld foundation.  This foundation also provides outdoor experiences to the handicapped.

Stephen competes successfully in triathlons, winning in his age group and also runs marathons, as does his wife Kristen.  He also plays on a soccer team at age 42.  Their children are also athletic.  Ryan is a good soccer player, plays baseball and runs on occasions.  Corrine is very active in gymnastics and William is just finding his interests in sports now at age 7.

Thomas is physically fit, playing soccer and working out in a gym.  He takes many foreign and domestic trips, as does Stephen for their work in science.

Richard & Doreothe Hanson Family
Richard & Doreothe Hanson Family
Micheal, Erin Mack, Thomas, Kristen, Stephen,
Ryan, Corinne, Doreothe, Richard, William
- Dec 2006

Doreothe and I are very much products of South Dakota shortly after the great depression and dust bowl days.  Poverty and the simple life were major factors in our young experiences.  Simple things could bring great joy.  We remain very conservative in our life styles.  We were, of course, influenced by our families and our genetic backgrounds and to some extent by our educational systems.  For me the latter had less influence than most assume.  The genes passed on through the generations described previously in this history have blessed both our children and us.

For me, Richard, the physical aspects of South Dakota greatly influenced me.  The night skies in Academy were not impacted by artificial lighting and seldom by clouds.  They were glorious and hard for city dwellers to imagine.  Mountains, trees and tall buildings did not obstruct our views and we could view distant horizons.  We could see the weather coming a long distance away and everyone was concerned about the weather in SD because it was the dominant influence on the economy and comfort of residents.  Rain was unpredictable and relatively infrequent.  For dry land farmers that were the backbone of the economy in central South Dakota, rain at proper intervals was a make or break factor in the crop season.  The weather could be very pleasant or very harsh with terrible blizzards or very high summer temperatures and wind.  One was conditioned to future uncertainties and problems by the relative difficulties of making ends meet as well as the weather extremes.

I still feel uncomfortable in environments where trees, buildings or other obstacles obstruct my view of the horizon although I love spending some time in the mountains and limited time in the forests. I feel unfettered in spirit when I return to the plains.  What I feel when I first arrive is best described as freedom.  It takes one away from the bustle of life in a city and the pressures of that life.  There is a sense of the incredible beauty of the bluffs and open landscapes.  I particularly like the tall grass prairie.  I am attracted to the seashores because partly they remind me of the Great Plains with a simple landscape and long views.  I greatly miss the call of the coyote at night, although the loon on northern Minnesota lakes is a great substitute.  These environments are very conducive to meditation and thinking.

I read that vertical lines of the city (skyscrapers) reflect ambition and aspiration while the horizontal line of the horizon that dominates the prairie is the line of meditation and peace.  The large expanse of the prairie is frightening and leads to loneliness when one first experiences it, then these expanses become beautiful and peaceful when one becomes accustomed to them.  People in the city often attempt to find personal space and escape.  A person transplanted from the prairie to the city feels very hemmed in for some time and frightened by the lack of visibility and space.  I am finding it difficult to adjust to living in a condominium community where the members attend talks, exercise classes, musical concerts, frequent meetings and often dine together.  I find the need for time for isolation and reflection more and more.  I do not understand the need for frequent social contact of this nature and frankly do not enjoy it.  We do not often dine in the dining room with our neighbors and it is not because we do not like them.  It is that I need more personal time and less involvement in their lives and they in mine than most of my neighbors.  I am a product of my early years in the South Dakota environment.  I remember as a young person that I envied the freedom of the sheepherder who was alone for very long periods on the prairie.  The research laboratory, library or a quiet room to study in became good escapes from the hectic life for me as I started my career as a scientist and professor.  On the other hand, I loved the classroom and teaching.  Living in the Chicago area was almost intolerable and almost impossible for us to understand in terms of a culture.  Many people we knew could not live without the stimulation of a large city or understand how someone could tolerate a life in South Dakota.

I remember the work on farms vividly.  One would get up before dawn, and do chores.  This might be feeding animals like hogs, chickens, cattle or milking cows.  Then breakfast and out to the fields for 8-10 hours until dusk in good weather.  Driving a tractor to plow, disc, or drag a field takes little concentration and one needed a good imagination to keep from getting totally bored.  We did not have a radio on tractors.  I guess the radios available were not portable enough to mount on a tractor or they could not withstand the vibration.  Transistors were not invented yet.  Usually one was alone from breakfast until dinner.  On rainy days a normal job for me might have been cleaning manure from barns or other menial work, which I did not mind.  A normal wage was $20.00 per week.  I like working for my uncle Joe Konechne who liked to take a midday break and liked to visit.  He was a bachelor then and lived alone most of the time.  He later married and had three boys.  Uncle Joe farmed the original Konechne Homestead.  He would take a midweek night off in Kimball so I got to see friends there to break up the week.  I might add that Uncle Joe was considered lazy by some of his brothers who farmed.  I thought he knew how to enjoy life a bit.  Sunday, of course, was always a day off.

I think I started working on tractors in the fields for farmers or on a ranch about age 12 or 13.  I also drove autos about this time.  One only needed 50 cents to get a drivers license and there were no age restrictions.  Farmers did what was necessary in terms of children starting to drive.  I remember driving a model T Ford.  It had one foot pedal for forward and one for reverse plus a hand throttle and brake.  It was great fun to drive.

The immensity of the landscape on the Great Plains and the unbroken landscape most impacted settlers, many could not deal with the weather or the isolation and left.  In the last few decades, farms have been sold to corporations who hold larger and larger amounts of land.  Improvements in mechanization have allowed fewer people to farm more and more land or manage larger amounts of ranch land.  Villages and buildings are disappearing.  The country school I attended and the school my mother attended in Brule County closed in 2003, as did the post office at Academy.  Academy is one of the last of the small early villages in that part of South Dakota to give up its spirit.  The land is again becoming unpopulated but with less of a feeling of isolation than the early settlers experienced.  The comfortable automobiles and good roads to areas with a small population of richer farmers and ranchers has made access to towns much more convenient.  Students travel as much as 40-60 miles to grade school daily.  The school systems there do not provide buses but allow some funds for transportation of students.  I wonder how difficult it is with the high gasoline prices now.

The simple life where few close friends or relatives had traveled outside SD and all existed on the necessities of life with little interest in luxuries as we now know them seemed full of happiness and is now gone except for some families.  Self-sufficiency was a means of existence for most.  Visiting neighbors and friends with great frequency for news and fellowship was very important.  Our life then reminds me of that described by a present friend who had recently visited a Buddhist monastery in Bhutan.  He said they were not interested in the countries gross national product but measured progress in gross national happiness.  The recent introduction of television and other western customs made many including my friend uncomfortable.  He feels that this Shangri La that he recently discovered is going to disappear.

I am not able to understand that people with wealth need great homes with more living space than one family can enjoy, multiple family cars and consume resources far beyond their needs for realistic comfort when we are consuming our environment and resources at an unsustainable rate.

Most of the farmers that I knew were people who were economical in their speech.  “Yuh and Yup” were not infrequent responses of agreement to a statement by one farmer to another.  When they said something, they truly believed it and had thought about it.  They did not discuss trivia or shoot from the hip when discussing ideas.  They were people who had thought a great deal about significant problems and had developed a form of wisdom that comes from listening and weighing ideas before drawing conclusions or giving an opinion.  I am very grateful for my scientific training that taught that being correct and developing conclusions only when the data justified them was very important.  Scientific integrity has always been critical.  I think that this has carried over into my nonscientific life.  I too often find people who sound like used car salesman who want to draw and present conclusions that have no justification in fact or support in reality.  I have the feeling that some of the integrity is sacrificed in current times so some scientists can advance themselves and their errors are overlooked to often without critical comment.  I think a lack of integrity has carried over into the University administrations and sometimes faculty.  A kind of corruption in the use of public funds, solicitation of funds with exaggerated descriptions of what will be achieved with the funds they request and exaggerated descriptions of past accomplishments.

It sends the wrong messages to students and is most disconcerting to me that the academic pillars of truth and integrity are becoming so susceptible to distorting information and willingly violating agreements with granting agencies, state and federal governments and faculty for the sake of convenience or avoiding problems with instituting new policies and contracts that profit the University or individuals within the administration.  I can only speak for the University that has employed me for the past 20 years or more but others in my field voice the same concerns.  I am glad to be retired because I was not making friends in administration by criticizing their behaviors.

We enjoyed our years in Europe very much and have had a very fortunate life in terms of opportunism to travel and enjoy many friends from around the world.  We made many friends in France, Warrick University in the U.K., and in Goettingen, Germany in particular.  Several others visited or worked in my laboratory.  The Holloways from Australia came for three or four summers for a couple of weeks to a month at a time and we had a great time with them while Bruce taught part of my summer course at the Freshwater Institute.  He was a great teacher and scientist and a very congenial person as was his wife Brenda.

The spouses of faculty who travel to serve on government panels, consult to provide funds for the family, go to scientific meetings, or give invited talks at other institutions are often left to take care of the family during frequent absences of the other spouse.  These activities are important for the advancement of scientists within their profession.  To be honest, they are also great ego boosting experiences as well.

Our children were exposed to well known academic and scientific leaders in our home and my laboratories and learned the value of education and the excitement of research discoveries.  They were well informed about many different avenues open to them early on in life.

We have had a very good life.  We have been greatly blessed.


Part VI >< Part IV