Award Honorees

Bruce Goetz

Bruce Goetz ‘63 has a passion for nature and the outdoors. Throughout his life, he has always found a way to bring that love of nature into his interests; from being a Boy Scout in his youth, to spending 43 years at Northland College and developing the innovative curriculum that has transformed it into one of the most prestigious environmentally-focused colleges in Wisconsin and the nation.

Goetz graduated from Minnetonka in 1963 and went into chemistry at the University of Minnesota. However, he soon realized that he didn’t want to work in a lab the rest of his life. Given his lifelong passion for the outdoors, he soon switched majors to geography and geology, later attending Northland College to complete his master’s degree. After graduation, he stayed on as a professor. Soon after, Goetz was charged with developing new environmental studies curriculum.

“With that emphasis at Northland, I got to do so many different things curriculum-wise and travel-wise with students,” Goetz recalled. “It just blossomed.”

During his time at Northland, Goetz helped start a number of programs including Outdoor Education, Meteorology, Natural Resources and Geographic Information Systems.

Goetz emphasized the importance of being in the landscape his students were learning about. Starting in 1972, Goetz began to take students on extended trips over spring term to further immerse them in the environments they were studying and places they normally would never see. His trips included sites all around the country, including trips to Hawaii, the American Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, Mexico and more.

“I walked with students on fresh lava flows and across canyons to see the land formations,” Goetz recalled. “I even got my pilot’s license to fly students on aerial field trips. To this day, I will run into former students, and they always talk about how impactful those field trips were to them. I am so proud that I could help those students appreciate the world around them.” Goetz retired from Northland College in 2016. The following year, he received the highest academic honor a faculty member can receive—Professor Emeritus.

To current Minnetonka students, Goetz advises, “Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, but make them realistic. Not everything is achievable, but if the dreams are worthwhile, you can make them happen!"


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