Posted: April 3, 1998

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

The devastation caused by the tornadoes that swept through the communities of St. Peter and Comfrey last Sunday night has prompted a rapid mobilization of students and instructors at several Minnesota State College and University campuses in southwestern Minnesota.

"I believe these ravaged communities will find some comfort in the heartfelt donations and help being offered by their neighbors," said Morrie Anderson, chancellor of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. "The response to assist these storm victims has been overwhelming."

Within hours of learning of the extent of the damage, students and instructors at Mankato State University, South Central College, and Minnesota West Community and Technical College were planning relief missions to help the stricken communities rebuild:

  • Mankato State University is housing 18 international students left homeless by the storm that damaged student housing at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, about 10 miles north of Mankato. In addition, the campus is mobilizing a massive volunteer effort. "Students are pouring in to help," said Greg Fritz, marketing and communications director at Mankato State University. "By Monday afternoon, more than 200 students signed up to go over to St. Peter." Additional services being provided include transportation, security, cleanup, emergency carpentry repair, grant-writing, food, housing and donations of cash, supplies, clothing and more. (Contact Greg Fritz, marketing and communications director, 507-389-2523.)
  • At South Central College in North Mankato, the storms struck close to home. While the number of students affected is unknown, two faculty and staff members lost everything and two others suffered severe property damage. "Everybody going to school here knows someone affected by the storm," said Ann Splinter, South Central College public relations director. "That's how bad it was." Students and staff from the college are washing victims' laundry, donating cash and volunteering to help with the clean-up. (Contact Ann Splinter, public relations director, 507-389-7289.)
  • Carpentry students and an instructor from Minnesota West's Pipestone campus, about 90 miles southwest of Comfrey, have notified emergency workers in Comfrey that a complete crew is ready to move into the area to help rebuild and repair buildings damaged in the storm. Students in the truck driving program also have volunteered to use the school's flatbed trucks and other vehicles to haul materials in or out of Comfrey as needed. "Minnesota West students are anxious to assist," said Gary Gillin, dean of communications and marketing at Minnesota West Community and Technical College. "The students and community of Granite Falls appreciated the support they received last year during the spring flood and are eager to lend a hand." At Minnesota West's campuses in Jackson and Canby, students in the electrical program have volunteered to help restore power to the areas hardest hit by the storm. An instructor is now working with line crews in St. Peter to repair downed lines. Jackson is about 50 miles south of Comfrey and 100 miles southwest of St. Peter. (Contact Gary Gillin, dean of communications and marketing, Pipestone campus, 507-825-4656.)

In addition to these efforts, a number of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are organizing fund-raising drives and busloads of volunteers to help with the cleanup. Several state college and university campuses have notified officials at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter that they are standing by, ready to help in any way they can.