Smith College Club of Minnesota Medalists

In 2017, the Club began awarding the “Smith College Club of Minnesota Medal”. The award, modeled after the Rally Day awards, honors a regional alumna who has lived a life of distinction. The event continues to be a festive, fundraising gathering with activities, food, conversation and a silent auction.


2024: Laurie Maloff Kramer ’69

Laurie Kramer ’69 has worked for non-profit organizations in many different fields since her graduation from Smith. In her first field, consumer education, she wrote short television scripts for Consumer Reports for TV and then was director of consumer education in Albany and New York City for the New York State Consumer Protection Board. In her second career, she worked for Jewish Community Centers in Buffalo NY and St. Paul MN. To prepare for her third career, she enrolled at the University of Minnesota for a master’s in public health, and then started a mental health education project to raise awareness and reduce stigma. In her fourth career, she combined her lifelong interest in journalism with her lifelong experience with non-profits to co-found the journalism website with her husband Joel.

Moving to Minnesota 40 years ago, she welcomed the personal outreach by Smith alums and found the club to be a wonderful, ongoing source of contacts and friends. She has been honored to serve as Smith Day co-chair in 2000, Smith Club president from 2007 to 2009, and one of the founders and facilitators of the club’s oral history project. She is especially proud to be part of the team that has produced three beautiful volumes—so far—of Strong Women Building Strong Communities.

2023: Barbara Bockhaus Klaas  ‘74

Barbara Klaas is a community activist and volunteer, with a lengthy history of service to the public schools in Minnesota, to the arts in the Twin Cities, and to Smith College.

Barbara served on the Hopkins School Board for 15 years, founded the Alliance for Student Achievement, and was elected president of both the Association of Metropolitan School Districts and the state-wide Minnesota School Boards Association.

Barbara has also been a Governing Member of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, a trustee of Hennepin Theater Trust, a member of the Minnesota Public Radio Advisory Council, a member of the MinnPost board, and a member of the board and treasurer of the Jungle Theater.

As a loyal alumna of Smith, Barbara has been secretary of her class, membership chair of the Smith College Club of Great Britain, and an active member and officer of the Smith College Club of Minnesota.

2022: Margaret (Peggy) White Leppik, ’65

In this era of rapid political change and concern about the future of American democracy, we honor a Smith alum whose involvement in politics, government, and public affairs is an inspiration. Peggy spent 12 years in the MN State Legislature and has served on numerous commissions. She has a lengthy history of involvement in the League of Women Voters as well as other organizations, including the MN Smith Club. She shared her thoughts about our current state of affairs as well as her reflections on her experiences.

2021: Martha “Marty” Wallace Swain ’71

In 2020, we awarded the 4th Minnesota Smith Medal. This honor recognizes one of our own who exemplifies the exemplify in their lives and work “the true purpose” of a liberal arts education. The three outstanding MN alumnae who have previously received the award in recognition of their professional achievements and outstanding service are Margaret Wurtele ’67, Cathy Haukedahl ’74, and Jane Anderson Howard ’75.

Marty is a life-long Minnesotan, growing up on a hobby farm in Mound (affectionately dubbed “Hump, Minnesota” by her acerbic new friends in Franklin King house freshman year). She was familiar with Smith College early on, as one of her older sisters was in the class of 1963, and she attended long-ago Smith Day in the Country events as a high schooler when they were held in alums’ lovely homes. She has spent her career in the field of medical publishing, working for medical magazines published by Harcourt Brace and McGraw-Hill and more recently for medical/public health websites published by a dot-com startup called ican and now the University of Minnesota. She lives with her husband, Ron Swain, near Excelsior and in the winter in Arizona, and her two children, Nick and Carrie Heiberg live in the Twin Cities area. The Minnesota Smith Club has been a constant in her post-college volunteer life; she’s served in many capacities from what used to be called Candidates Committee all the way to President.

Smith Day has been a constant too, with Marty in many posts including chair of the event “a time or two,” and she worked on the Oral History books, planning, interviewing, writing, editing, and production. “The Minnesota Club is a constant source of inspiration, fun, and friends,” she says.

2019: Jane Anderson Howard ’75

In her introduction of our newest club medalist, Jane Anderson’75 (right), Paula Prahl ’84 (left) recited an impressive list of professional positions and undertakings in Jane’s career; she is currently the Director of Philanthropy for the Nature Conservancy of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

But then Paula got to Jane’s contributions to Smith College and our own Minnesota Smith Club and really had her hands full. Besides serving as a Trustee of the college, President of the AASC Board of Directors, chair of the Smith College Medal Committee, and taking 14 trips as an AASC representative for the Smith Travel Program to places as wide-ranging as Cuba, the Galapagos, and Zimbabwe, Jane has held nearly every position on our Minnesota Smith Club Board at one time or another.

Arguably her most exciting Smith distinction during her tenure there was playing on the college’s championship intramural ping-pong team! Jane’s mother, Helen Anderson ’44, her aunt, Jinny Humphrey ’42, her great aunt, Eugenia Blunt ’14, and her great great aunt, Carlene Blunt (1890s) preceded her at Smith. Heartiest congratulations to Jane!

2018: Catherine Farrington Haukedahl ’74

Cathy (pictured left) is a proud 1974 Smith graduate. After graduating from the Univ of MN Law School in 1979, Cathy went on to become Minnesota’s first woman solicitor general. After several years as a shareholder at Felhaber Larson, Cathy became the deputy director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid in 2002 and in 2011 was named executive director of the organization. as executive director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, a nonprofit focused on providing legal services for low-income people. She led MMLA through the financial turmoil of the Great Recession and was instrumental in expanding its domestic violence court projects and developing its medical-legal programs.

In 2016, Cathy was recognized by the Hennepin County Bar Association as the winner of the Distinguished Service Award for career-long pro bono work on behalf of the community. “I went to law school because I saw law and justice as fundamental to making the world a better place,” Haukedahl told Attorney at Law magazine.

Minnesota Lawyer, recognized her as an Attorney of the Year in 2017: “When Cathy became Executive Director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid in 2011, The Great Recession was in full force. The Legislature proposed deep, deep budget cuts. Some of the money came back, but not all of it, and funding has lagged ever since. ‘This was a whole new level of navigating the waters,’ Haukedahl said. While legal aid has tremendous support within the profession, it could be better known and understood in the rest of the community, Haukedahl said. Traditional sources of funding that are familiar with pro bono legal services are having financial problems of their own. The bottom line: Legal aid turns away three out of five potential clients who have actual issues and whom the office could help. ‘How do we expand and serve people?’ she asked.”

“Haukedahl retired last year [2017] but has not packed away her briefcase and is still helping clients. ‘My wish list is that the country would address systemic poverty issues so we wouldn’t need to keep helping people.’” Cathy has maintained close Smith ties with college friends and is an inspiration to young women to attend Smith both through her words and her actions.

2017: Margaret Von Blon Wurtele ’67

Margaret is an author, fund-raiser, philanthropist, publisher, and loyal Smith alumna. Just after her Smith graduation, she began her career by serving in the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa. Writing, the arts, community service, and philanthropy have shaped her life since then. The Smith Club of Minnesota, is indebted to her for her commitment over the years. Margaret’s early career included work at Walker Art Center, the St. Paul United Arts Council, and the Dayton Hudson Foundation. She has served as Chair of the Boards of Directors of Graywolf Press, the Blake Schools, the Guthrie Theater, the Episcopal House of Prayer, and Minnesota Opera.

In the mid-1990s, Margaret co-founded Hungry Mind Press in St. Paul. Over the course of its nearly 10 years of existence, the press published 50 titles with an emphasis on literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, including a series of reissues of quality nonfiction. Margaret has written and published two memoirs, Taking Root: A Spiritual Memoir (1998) and Touching the Edge: A Mother’s Path from Loss to Life (2003). Her first novel, The Golden Hour (2012), is about a young Italian woman during World War II.

While her home is in Minnesota, Margaret owned vineyards in the Napa Valley, and, with her late husband Angus, founded and operated Terra Valentine winery until 2014.

Breadth, depth, service, and commitment are hallmarks of Margaret’s career. Margaret brought her talents to the College by serving on the Smith College Board of Trustees. “She has made the choice to work hard, lean in, and be generous throughout her life. In my view, this is the very definition of a life of distinction,” said Sarah Caruso in her nomination of Margaret for the first Minnesota Medalist award.