Humphrey School News—November 7, 2019

Humphrey School Rededicates Meeting Spaces in Honor of Longtime Public Servants

Celebrations recognize civil rights activist Josie Johnson, and influential political couple Orville and Jane Freeman


Josie Johnson cuts the ribbon to the Josie Johnson Community Room at the Humphrey School. Several people stand behind her.
Josie Johnson cuts the ribbon to the Josie Johnson Community Room at the Humphrey School at the grand opening celebration on October 14. Photo: Pierre Ware

Two special gathering places, named for highly influential and respected Minnesota leaders, were rededicated recently at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs to serve as community meeting spaces and inspiration for leaders of the future. 

The Dr. Josie Robinson Johnson Community Room for Social Justice and the Orville and Jane Freeman Commons were both renovated over the summer months to better reflect the contributions and legacies of their namesakes. 

“The spirit of Hubert Humphrey is very much alive in the DNA of our School here,” said Dean Laura Bloomberg, recalling one of Humphrey’s quotes: ‘Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.’ 

“That is what we want to see happen in these rooms—discussion, dissent, debate, and dialogue about what it takes to keep our community strong and to encourage our students to work toward the common good.” 

The Dr. Josie Robinson Johnson Community Room for Social Justice 

A meeting room in the Humphrey School building was remodeled and named after Johnson, a longtime civil rights activist and advocate for the School. It’s now a space that community organizations can use for public forums, planning sessions, and the like. 

A grand opening celebration on October 14 attracted some 150 people, including leading community, government, and university leaders, as well as Johnson’s family and friends.  

The evening featured music and spoken word performances by high school students, and the unveiling of a portrait of Johnson that depicts her reading a book to several small children. 

Dean Laura Bloomberg unveils a portrait of Josie Johnson. Johnson and her two daughters stand on stage as well.

“Josie, seeing you nurtures my soul, and always gives me a special feeling,” said Charles Caldwell, who created the portrait. “The name of this piece is ‘Life Lessons,’ to represent the lessons you have taught, and how you guide us all together.”

This piece, along with another portrait of Johnson, will hang in the room, and the School is planning a display of art and artifacts to tell Johnson’s life story. 

Johnson said she hopes the community room will be a space for students, scholars, and community organizations to feel comfortable testing new ideas for eliminating racial inequalities. 

“All of you have made me who I am, and I’m grateful for your love and support and caring,” Johnson said. 

“This community loves our mother, and she loves it,” added her daughter, Norrene Johnson Duffy. “Thank you to the Humphrey School and Dean Bloomberg for creating this special place, and for your ongoing display of love and appreciation for our mother.”

A year ago, the Humphrey School established the Josie Robinson Johnson Fellowship, which supports Humphrey School students who have specific interests in addressing racial inequalities and injustice. Kania Johnson, a first-year Master of Public Policy candidate, is the first recipient of the fellowship

See more photos from the event

The Orville and Jane Freeman Commons 

The Freeman Commons, which Dean Bloomberg describes as “the Humphrey School’s living room,” is named for Orville and Jane Freeman to recognize their lifetime of leadership in public and private life. 

The Commons was recently remodeled to include a curated display of photographs and artifacts illustrating their long careers, including Orville Freeman’s roles as administrative assistant to Hubert Humphrey, as governor of Minnesota, and as U.S. secretary of agriculture; and Jane Freeman’s service with organizations such as the Girl Scouts of America, the Women’s National Democratic Club, the United Nations, and CARE. 

“We’re here tonight honoring two of the most remarkable people in Minnesota’s history,” said former Vice President Walter Mondale at the room’s October 22 rededication. “It’s good to recall people who should never be forgotten, and this room gives all of us an opportunity to rejoice in the fact that Minnesota had leaders like this.”

Orville Freeman died in 2003, and Jane Freeman in 2018. Their children, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and his sister, Connie Freeman (pictured below), thanked the crowd of family members, friends, and political figures for honoring their parents at the rededication. 

Mike Freeman stands behind a table next to his sister, Connie, seated, in the Humphrey School's Freeman Commons.

They also announced that the Humphrey School is establishing a new internship in honor of Jane Freeman (whose portrait hangs on the wall behind them), aimed at supporting students who work in rural policy development. 

“I’m excited to be part of the launching of a rural development fellowship in my mother’s name,” said Connie Freeman. “She was so pleased and delighted that this was one of the ways that we would remember her. In a very real way, I feel that she is with us here tonight, as we launch this fellowship.”

Granddaughter Katie Freeman, a family medicine physician, said the fellowship is a fitting way to honor Jane Freeman and what was important to her.

“What I'm excited about is young people getting to think creatively about ideas in a way that really honors Jane,” she said. “She would be excited about them going to rural areas, to think about these challenging situations that face rural Minnesotans and engage with the people who live there.” 

The Jane C. Freeman Rural Policy Internship is an opportunity for students seeking to learn more about, and work in, rural development policy and practice settings. Freeman Interns will experience, first-hand, the unique challenges and opportunities of community and economic development in rural Minnesota. 

The Freeman family also supports the School’s Freeman Center for International Economic Policy. Professor Robert Kudrle holds the Freeman Chair for International Trade and Investment Policy. 

See more photos from the event

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