May 17, 2023

St. Paul, Min. (Aug. 16, 2016) — AARP Minnesota and Pollen unveiled the first ever Minnesota 50 Over 50 list today. The 50 individuals are being honored as accomplished community leaders who are defying stereotypes about aging. A number of residents from Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the greater Minnesota regions have been selected as leaders on the 50 over 50 list.

“This list confirms the amazing contribution being made by Minnesotans over the age of 50.  These outstanding individuals are leading and inspiring communities of all kinds, colors and sizes.  It is a remarkable list that only begins to tell the tale of what older Minnesotans are accomplishing,” said Seth Boffeli, Interim Director of AARP Minnesota.

“Ageism is real. 50 Over 50 not only recognizes the accomplishments and possibilities that come with age, but by celebrating these leaders we dismantle wrong and hurtful stereotypes about aging,” said Jamie Millard, Executive Director of Pollen.

The final 50 honorees were selected from a pool of 350 nominations that were submitted earlier in the year. Candidates were nominated in five different categories; Nonprofit, Arts and Culture, Community Building, Business and Disruptor.  A ten member selection panel worked with AARP and Pollen to determine the final honorees.  The 50 honorees are:

Arts & Culture

Betsy Bowen, Grand Marais

Ananya Chatterjea, Minneapolis

Luisa Cabello-Hansel, Minneapolis

Bill Cottman, North Minneapolis

Bill Svendsgaard, St. Louis Park

Carolyn Holbrook, St. Paul

Judy Hornbacher, Minneapolis

Ranee Ramaswamy, Minneapolis

Laurie Van Wieren, Minneapolis

Bee Yang, Cannon Falls


Famous Dave Anderson, Edina

Marcia Ballinger, St. Paul

Kim Bartmann, Minneapolis

David Beito, Thief River Falls

Ralph Bernstein, Hopkins

Lynn Casey, Minneapolis

Daniel Klassen, Minneapolis

Holly Morris, St. Paul

Richard Murphy Jr., Minneapolis

Philomena Morrissey Satre, Eagan

Community Builders

Sylvia Allen, Aitkin

Marvin Roger Anderson, St. Paul

Bev Bales, Carlos

Rose Chu, Little Canada

Arlene El Amin, Minneapolis

Linda Krug, Duluth

Philip McNairy, Red Wing

Dr. Kusum Saxena, Roseville

Wyman (Wy) Spano, St. Paul

Verna Toenyan, Long Prairie


Gail Chang Bohr, St. Paul       

Ann Bancroft, Scandia

Scott Cole, New Brighton

Michael Matthew Ferrell, Minneapolis

Sam Grant, St. Paul

Lorrie Janatopoulos, Eveleth

Paula Maccabee, St. Paul

Eric Schnell, Shoreview

Sandra Menefee Taylor, St. Paul

Douglas Wendland, Duluth


Terri Barreiro, Maple Plain

Jodi Harpstead, St. Paul

Candice Harshner, Duluth

Fran Heitzman, Bloomington

Kausar Hussain, Minneapolis

Val Johnson, New Brighton

Matt Kramer, St. Paul

Margaret Lovejoy, St. Paul

Rebecca Rom, Ely

Paul Williams, Minneapolis

Ananya Chatterjea

Dr. Ananya Chatterjea (Photo by Paul Virtucio)
Dr. Ananya Chatterjea (Photo by Paul Virtucio)

Founder and choreographer of Ananya Dance Theatre, a company created for female dancers of color, Ananya Chatterjee, 52, practices her art at the intersections of choreography, pedagogy, and activism. Using the language of contemporary Indian dance, her works express the hidden lives of women on the margins and explore some of our society’s most pressing issues: social justice, resource depletion, and corporate pillaging of indigenous lands. A celebrated dance scholar and University of Minnesota teacher, Ananya’s rallying cry calls us to engage in what she considers, “an active citizenry for dance,” using the art form to communicate the real, often ugly, conditions of our lives; to reimagine—and ideally create—a more equitable, beautiful world.

Gail Chang Bohr

Ramsey County Judge Gail Margaret-Rose Chang Bohr (Ret).
Ramsey County Judge Gail Margaret-Rose Chang Bohr (Ret).

It’s never too late. At 72, Gail Chang Bohr is living proof. A social worker eager to better serve children, she enrolled in law school in her 40s, eventually becoming the executive director of the Children’s Law Center, where she helped train hundreds of volunteer lawyers and changed the way children are represented in the foster care system and in court. Then, because she believed the state’s judicial bench needed to reflect the fast-growing diversity of the Twin Cities, she applied to become a judge—several times. Although she never got past the review committee, she didn’t give up. Instead, she ran for an open judicial seat and, in 2008, became Ramsey County’s first Asian American judge.

Ranee Ramaswamy

Ranee Ramaswamy
Ranee Ramaswamy

Although she began dancing at the age of seven, Ranee Ramaswamy didn’t start performing professionally until after moving to Minnesota at the age of 27. She was born in South India, and grew up studying the traditional dance of her culture, but it was not something that she was encouraged to pursue as a career. She is now one of the foremost exponents of the classical south Indian dance form, Bharatanatyam. Ranee has worked tirelessly for the last four decades to find a place for Bharatanatyam in the landscape of American dance, and founded Ragamala Dance Company in 1992. Today, that company stands among our nation’s finest, and Ranee, now 64, still actively performs and tours with Ragamala. The recipient of many awards and honors, Ranee currently serves on the National Council on the Arts, appointed by President Barack Obama.

Bee Yang
Sixty-year-old Bee Yang inspires both young and old with the beauty and depth of his Hmong song poetry, expanding the boundaries of poetic understanding and celebrating a language and worldview that is in danger of becoming lost. Through his art, Bee documents the history and reality of Hmong culture, drawing upon his experiences as a young boy in the villages of Laos, a teenager fleeing persecution, a refugee in Thai camps, and an immigrant building a new future in America. At festivals and other public gatherings, Bee gifts his people—and the rest of us—the poet’s perspective on the human heart and reminds us that what really matters is the journey we take to realize our own self-worth.

Rose Chu

Rose Chu
Rose Chu

Fifty-five-year-old Dr. Rose Wan-Mui Chu left her career as an engineer to dedicate her professional life to the tireless pursuit of education equity and excellence, starting as a classroom teacher. Now a faculty member at the Metropolitan State University’ School of Urban Education, Rose has provided tremendous leadership to a teacher preparation program to increase the number of teachers of color and better prepare all teachers to ensure quality education to urban learners. Her leadership extends to her long history of community service, which includes the Dragon Festival (co-founder) and former Asian American Renaissance (board chair). Currently she is a founding board vice chair of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders, a new initiative to harness the power of Minnesota’s emerging and experienced Asian American leaders.

Dr. Kusum Saxena
Dr. Kusum Saxena, 83, is a community builder known for her willingness to talk about tough issues, including one of our society’s most taboo: death. As the first female foreign-born physician to serve as a staff physician in the Saint Paul-Ramsey Hospital (now Regions) emergency room and an Honoring Choices Minnesota multicultural advisory board member and community ambassador, Dr. Kusum Saxena is well-positioned to do so. Her message is simple: age shapes and perfects who you are as a person, and NOW is the time to talk to your loved ones about advance care planning and end-of-life decision-making. In addition to being a leader in Minnesota’s medical community, Dr. Kusum Saxena is a leader in the state’s Hindu community, having co-founded the Hindu Society of Minnesota in 1977. She is also a role model for girls and women of all cultures and backgrounds, including those in her native India.

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