Deceased April 18, 2014
Don Alstad died April 18 at his home in Roseville, Minn., of lymphoma.
Don grew up in Wayland, Mass., the only piano-playing tight end on his high school football team. At Amherst, he majored in biology.
Steve Neel ’69 wrote, “He was enthusiastic about everything, and his enthusiasms were catching.” Don volunteered to teach Steve how to ski. “[He] kept me mostly upright on the slopes, except for my face-plant in a ditch on my first black-diamond trail.” Toby Webb ’69 was another of Don’s skiing students: “The equipment and the student were hopeless—but Don got me up and successfully going, which I have always appreciated.”
Greg Thalmann ’69 wrote, “It’s his sense of humor I remember best, and the seriousness underlying it. He had a deep interest in biology, and his eagerness to share it must have made him a devoted teacher.”
Don taught high school physics and biology in Marengo, Iowa, for two years and earned a master’s in civil engineering and a Ph.D. in biology. He joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota department of ecology, evolution and behavior in 1982. His research recently centered on European corn borers, and on manipulations designed to slow the evolution of insect resistance to genetically modified maize.
He was awarded a Morse-Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education in 2009. He developed a widely used teaching software, Populus. He’d memorize the names of the students in his large ecology course and could identify them all by the first day of class.
Don is survived by his wife, Karen, and daughters Amy and Leah. Don and his family spent hundreds of weekend at their hobby farm in Wisconsin. “Don restored and maintained 32 acres of prairies, cultivated a small apple orchard, hunted deer and observed the flora, fauna and changing seasons,” his family wrote.
David L. Michelmore ’69