Sandee Gardebring Ogren was an amazing woman. In her sixty three years of life she was relentlessly constructive, both personally and professionally. She was full of life, laughter, warmth, love and kindness. In 1966, as a 19 year old college student, Sandee helped organize and lead a Quaker tour of America’s Deep South, going church-to-church in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia preaching peace as an alternative to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. She knew even then that war was failure, that there had to be a better way.
She was an environmental champion, first as Director of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, later as the Chief Enforcement Officer for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chicago region. Her pursuit of polluters resulted in more legal actions and fines levied in her region than in the other ten American EPA regions combined. As a result, she was fired by President Ronald Reagan’s EPA Administrator, Anne Gorsuch Burford.
As Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services she successfully deinstitutionalized all developmentally disabled Minnesotans in the late 1980’s, moving them out of warehouse-like state institutions and creating a new system of community-based residential group homes. Access to family, increased independence, and dignified living arrangements dramatically improved the lives of Minnesota’s neediest citizens.
As a Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court in the 1990’s Sandra led the fight to improve the treatment of juveniles in state civil and criminal courts. She worked with Minnesota’s Native American community to assure legal recognition of Tribal courts in the Minnesota Justice system. With Sandra’s ascension to the court, Minnesota became the first state in American history to have a female-majority Supreme Court.
Sandra was a founding Board member of the Minneapolis-based Center for Victims of Torture, providing desperately needed counseling and services to victims of war and repressive regimes from throughout the world.
She served as a Vice President at both the University of Minnesota and California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo, and loved the vitality of a professional life spent helping smart, enthusiastic young people succeed.
Sandra died in the summer of 2010. We will miss her sweet smile and wonderful laugh forever. Her lifelong commitment to peace and the improvement of people’s lives is sustained through her creation of From War to Peace. Although Sandee did not live to see this dream come to fruition, her words remain to spur others on: “Since eternal war doesn’t seem to have worked all that well, perhaps we should give peace a chance.
Paul Ogren has worn a surprising number of hats over the years. A healthcare entrepreneur as well as a horticulturalist, state legislator, and an accomplished speaker, he is also a lifelong peace activist and an advocate for social justice.
Born and raised in southern California, in the 1970s he moved to a small farm in northern Minnesota, where he operated Ogren Brothers Plant Nursery. Soon entering the political arena, he won a seat as state legislator in 1980. During his 12 years in office, he authored MinnesotaCare, the state’s landmark healthcare act, providing subsidized health insurance for children and adults from working yet poor families. Among his many other legislative achievements, Ogren also created Fond du Lac Community College, Minnesota’s first college for Native Americans and the first Federal-State jointly funded entity of its kind, and authored one of the nation’s first Organic Standards acts, creating new markets for organic produce while ensuring the integrity of organic-labeled foods.
Having been a peace activist during the Vietnam era, Paul Ogren as legislator also authored anti-war resolutions, starting with the first Iraq war.
As founder and President of the State Alliance for Universal Health Care, he worked during the 1980’s and early ‘90’s with state legislators from throughout the country, responding to the lack of federal leadership by pushing healthcare access for the uninsured on a state-by-state basis. In the ensuing years, Ogren founded the Minneapolis-based Aristone Corporation, a consulting firm working with public and non-profit hospitals dedicated to providing health care to uninsured and disabled Americans. As a nationally recognized expert on changes affecting the healthcare system, Ogren has consulted on health policy in 30 states.
Since returning to California in 2004, Paul Ogren has turned his enormous energies toward the creation of an entrepreneurial vehicle to move the nation and the world toward more peaceful ends. His company, based in San Luis Obispo, is called From War to Peace. It launched in 2010 with its initial offerings of jewelry and other personal works of art made of “peace bronze,” utilizing copper recycled from U.S. nuclear weapons systems: miles of copper cabling that once connected the now-decommissioned and disarmed missile silos in the Midwest. From War To Peace is moving forward on larger-scale projects as well, including custom-made sculpture.
To foster global peace efforts, Ogren’s company dedicates 20% of its profits to peace and social justice organizations.
As Ogren remarks, “We believe that war is failure, peace is triumph. To that end, we’re turning the weapons meant to destroy us into works of art and beauty meant to restore us.”
When not working, Ogren devotes himself to growing beautiful flowers, delicious fruit, and sweetly-scented roses in his San Luis Obispo garden.