Humphrey School News—February 7, 2017

Master of Weaving Together Communities, Eric Jolly Receives University Award of Distinction

A basket woven by Eric Jolly is on display at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, but when Twin Cities colleagues talk about his craft of weaving, it’s not about the ability to transform tree branches into art. It’s about Jolly's leadership skills. 

“He’s a scientist. And he’s a philosopher. He skydives. He’s a flute player. He’s a storyteller. And he weaves together communities,” said David O’Fallon, president and CEO of the Minnesota Humanities Center, at a recognition breakfast to honor Jolly. “He is a man who has an amazing array of dimensions and perceptions, and a commitment to building the human community at a time when we’re under a tremendous amount of stress.”

The University of Minnesota has awarded Eric Jolly, PhD, president and CEO of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners and member of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs dean’s advisory council, with its Award of Distinction for his exemplary leadership and service. The award is one of the highest honors given to a non-alumnus by the University Board of Regents.

In accepting the award during a recognition breakfast February 2 at the Humphrey School, Jolly noted the reputation of the Humphrey School as a nonpartisan institution, adding, “The Humphrey School is partisan toward people, and it’s that partisanship toward people that draws us together.”

A psychologist with higher education experience, Jolly has dedicated his professional life to enhancing the human experience, and giving voice to those without. He served as president and CEO of the Science Museum of Minnesota for 11 years, where he is credited with making science accessible to underrepresented communities and establishing the museum as a fundamental education center. He is also recognized for playing a national role in bringing together people and practices that are not typically combined: the humanities, the art of storytelling, and science. 

“It’s an incredibly challenging time for our world and we must give voice that no one is better because of their race, their religions, their sexual orientation, or their age,” said Jolly. “This is the place where it was safe to launch America’s first exhibit on race. This is the place where it’s safe to have nonprofits offer benefits to non-married couples. This is the state where I can get honored simply for following your lead.”

Jolly accepted the award alongside Paul Williams, president and CEO of Project for Pride in Living, who received the University’s Outstanding Achievement Award.

In presenting the two awards, Karen Hanson, University of Minnesota executive vice president and provost, said the honorees “have made their individual lives and our community better, and they have enriched our sense of community.”

Jolly is a former Kellogg National Leadership Fellow, where he studied international philanthropy and wrote professionally about the realities and differences between donor interests and community need. At Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, he leads a network of foundations, funds, and organizations that serve Minnesotans. He has said that the position provides him the opportunity to apply his unique perspectives honed while serving diverse community boards and organizations.

Those who know him best say it’s an opportunity to continue weaving.

“At Philanthropy Partners, take it as a platform to weave together this community in ways that we all need, said O’Fallon to Jolly. “Take it as a platform to continue to do what we need to do going forward.”

Award of Distinction conferred on Eric J. Jolly by University of Minnesota Regents
February 2, 2017

 President and CEO, Minnesota Philanthropy Partners

Eminent philanthropist, who, as leader of one of the nation’s largest community foundations, serves all Minnesotans by helping charitable giving thrive

Imaginative leader, who, as president of the Science Museum of Minnesota, produced provocative exhibits, greater access and inclusion for all people, and growth in the museum’s revenue, impact, and reputation

Passionate advocate of learning, whose tireless work at the state and technology, engineering, and mathematics education


Eric Jolly accepted the Award of Distinction from Karen Hanson, University provost
Office of Communications

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