Former MSUM Professor Still Active in Community


By Ashley Rezachek,

In her 87 years Yvonne Condell has accomplished a lot.

Condell’s life has been on the go from a young age. She received her bachelor’s degree at 20 years old, and by the time she was 22, she had her master’s. Even after retiring from teaching at MSUM in 1995 she is still highly active in her community.

Condell was born in the small city of Quitman, Georgia, in 1931. Higher education had always been emphasized in her family, as her mother had gone to college.

“(My family) always tried to provide the best education,” Condell said. “Now this was in the segregated south, so you can imagine that there was a lack of libraries, and there just weren’t facilities for African-Americans. But my family made sure we got an education and they supplemented things at home that we did not have in school.”

Condell builds her career

Condell was the first woman in her family to go to a university that is not private. She began her higher education at Florida A&M University. She went on to get her master’s at the University of Connecticut, where she stayed for a few years to teach after graduating. She also completed her doctorate at the University of Connecticut. Condell taught as a biology professor for 40 years, 30 of those years at MSUM.

Condell helps her community

After retiring Condell wanted to stay active in her community, so she served on multiple boards for various organizations. She has served on the board of directors at Minnesota Public Radio, the board of directors for the Science Museum of Minnesota, the board of directors for the MSUM Foundation and Minnesota State Arts Board. She was involved in the Upper Midwest Women’s History Center and Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, as well as many other organizations.

While volunteering for AARP, Condell was selected as the volunteer representative and made appearances in advertisements in publications such as Good Housekeeping, The New Yorker and Time Magazine.

Condell was selected to represent AARP volunteers. (Photo from Ebony Magazine Dec. 2000)



Condell gets involved in the AAUW

“I’ve been very active in the American Association of University Women,” Condell said.

Condell served on the national board of directors for AAUW and has been involved in the organization for over 50 years. She is still active today, including making financial contributions to the organization and its cause.

“My first experience with Dr. Condell was national,” Susan Helgeland, Immediate Past President of the FM branch of AAUW, said. “My connection to Yvonne Condell goes back to the ‘70s, and it’s not in North Dakota, it’s in Colorado.”

Helgeland met Condell when she was on the national board for AAUW and Helgeland was on the state board in Colorado. Condell made several trips to Colorado to discuss what the AAUW was doing in the Colorado area.

“I was in my 30s at the time, I was young, and I was ambitious, and I didn’t know a lot of things and Dr. Condell came and she was in a way … kind of a mentor to me,” Helgeland said. “She helped me and had time to talk about what we were doing.”

Condell said being involved in AAUW allowed her to meet some people she would not have been able to meet without AAUW. One person was Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist and president in 1975 of The American Association for the Advancement of Science. Condell hosted Mead in Washington D.C. while Mead was there to accept her AAUW honors.


Yvonne Condell speaks at the Fergus Falls AAUW’s 50th anniversary celebration. (Photo from AAUW Fergus Falls, MN Branch)

“The American Association of University Women I think has been the organization that has promoted my cause,” Condell said.

Condell is a strong supporter of the arts

Stepping into Condell’s home is like walking into an art gallery. Colorful pieces of art by Charles Beck line the walls of her home. Condell owns the largest private collection of Charles Beck’s artwork.

“I bought my first piece of art when I was nine years old,” Condell said. “I saved my allowance for weeks to buy a little piece of pottery. So I’ve always had an interest in the arts.”

She also has a collection of Inuit artwork in her home, which she began collecting when she visited the arctic.

“I have been in the Canadian arctic. I did some fieldwork there which was just fascinating,” Condell said.

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Condell is keeping busy today

Today Condell spends a lot of her time reading. Although she does read about science, she says she reads as a concerned citizen and not as a professor.

“I read five newspapers,” Condell said. “I read the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Star Tribune, the Forum and the Christian Science Monitor.”


Condell looks ahead

“I’m motivated by the chance for people to move up or to find something in life that means something,” Condell said.

She believes the positive representation of young girls in the media is important and mentioned that seeing more girls in TV ads being portrayed beyond the stereotypes is a healthy sign. Girls can present themselves other than playing with dolls. However, Condell still hopes to see more encouragement of young people.

“I really try every chance I get to be involved with young people,” Condell said. “I’m pleased when I see that young people are doing unusual things.”

Condell’s impact on MSUM and the FM community can be seen both in and outside of the academic world.

“She is a memorable woman. You just don’t forget her, ever,” Helgeland said.

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