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"M" Club Alumni Update

Name: Darryl Weiss

Darryl Weiss

Sports: Basketball
Competitive season years: 1973-1975

Personal Accomplishments:

Since leaving the University I went to law school and have worked in a number of fields as an in-house attorney. This gave me the opportunity to work in 13 countries as an expatriate doing M&A, immigration, labor, and employment opening and closing operations around the world.

In the last seven years I have survived two brain surgeries for aneurysms, three strokes, four seizures, and a number of TIAs. So I switched to wheelchair fencing. I am currently on the US Wheelchair Fencing Team and am ranked number 7 in the US. Since going on disability I volunteer my time in the stroke mentoring program at a local hospital working with stroke patients just going into rehab on what they can expect to experience. I am also a Co-Founder and Director of a wheelchair fencing club in San Diego.


1. What was your major here at the “U”?
Bachelor of Elected Studies in BioSciences

2. Where has your major led you in regards to your profession?
It has been kind of a windy road. I was originally thinking med school but got sidetracked to law school and ended up working for bioscience companies in California that had or needed ties to other countries so I was able to use both science and law.

3. What was the most difficult transition you faced after graduating?
Learning all the different customs and practices and languages of how others do business not only in the US but also around the world. When I counsel new companies that want to expand internationally the first thing I tell them is, “Tell your management to stop thinking like an American.”

4. What inspired your athletic career?
I have always been athletic and was encouraged by my parents to find a sport I like. Then I watched people like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Connie Hawkins who made the sport look so exciting.

5. Why did you choose to come to the University of Minnesota?
My father had accepted a position with Carlson Companies my senior year in high school so we moved from Chicago’s north shore to Minneapolis. I had talked to some other schools but I was a little scared to move away and then I thought that Big 10 schools had a reputation for being strong in the sciences and engineering so it was an easy choice.

6. What are some of your all-time favorite Gopher memories?
Freshman year leaving Williams Arena after practice and there was a -40 degree wind chill. My first thought was, “I could be sitting on the bench at Florida State.” One I will never forget is George Schauer scoring his first two points. He used to do the fancy ball handling during warm up and didn’t get to play much. If we got up in the score people would start chanting, ”George, George” until he was put in. When he scored the place exploded.

7. How has being a student-athlete at the University prepared you for your professional career?
It has taught me the value of teamwork, giving your all, prioritizing you schedule and having fun.

8. What does it mean to you to forever be identified as a letter winner at the University of Minnesota?
I feel incredibly proud. It’s something that cannot be taken away from me. The experience, the people I met with whom I am lifelong friends. The experience helped shape my life and it has done so in a positive manner.

9. What advice do you have for current student athletes?
Have fun, don’t forget your studies and enjoy the experience.

Name: Cullen Sexton

Alexis Russell

Sports: Baseball
Competitive season years: 2007-2011

Personal Accomplishments:

A key component to Minnesota’s bullpen in his 4 years of competition. Over his career, he compiled a 6-4 record while appearing in 69 games. He enjoyed a breakout senior campaign in which he appeared in 13 games, compiling a 1.98 earned run average. His performance allowed him to be named the most improved player on the Gopher’s squad. A leader both on and off the field, Cullen excelled in the classroom. His hard work and dedication to the academic side has landed him a great professional start at Minnesota-based 3M.


1. What was your major here at the “U”?

I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Majoring in Finance.

2. Where has your major led you, in regards to your profession?

My profession and first job are a direct result of my major. The summer after my junior year I landed an internship with 3M in the finance function of the business and was offered a full-time position upon graduation. Intern to full-time hire definitely seems to be the trend today. I know for me, the internship recruiting process was long and rather cut-throat—I heard plenty of “thanks but no thanks”. I’d say the biggest key for undergrads looking to hit the ground running upon graduation is to not wait until after graduation to find pertinent experiences related to your major. While it may be more work, Irecommend putting in some time upfront figuring out ways to prepare for post-graduation. I know for me personally, my senior year and graduation date were both a lot less stressful and more enjoyable due to the fact that I had plans in advance.

3. What was the most difficult transition you faced after graduating?

The biggest transition for me has revolved around not having that day to day interaction with all my teammates. It’s a bit of a change not being able to walk down the block, or hallway, to meet up with my buddies. It’s amazing how quickly we all went from doing relatively the same thing, to branching out across the state/country while pursuing a variety of careers.

4. What inspired your baseball career?

I can’t point to one specific time or event that “shaped” my career or desire to play baseball at the collegiate level. I’d say most importantly, growing up I had extremely supportive parents that promoted my involvement in all types of sports. From there I would say that like a lot of other athletes, I have always despised losing. So whether I was in the classroom, out at recess, or playing a board game, I always pushed myself to succeed and I guess that mentality has stuck with me.

5. Why did you choose to come to the University of Minnesota?

Regardless of sports, I had always planned on going to a Big Ten school. Growing up in Wisconsin, I was naturally interested in Madison…as well as Minnesota. Once it looked like I was going to try to play baseball at the next level, I quickly realized Madison wasn’t an option since they didn’t have a program. However, I don’t think it would have mattered. Once I was on Minnesota’s campus and had a chance to meet the coaches here, my decision was quickly made. Our coaches are very genuine people, who promote a culture of learning, growing and most importantly fun.

6. What are some of your all-time favorite Gopher memories?

There are a few different plays, games and locations that will always stick out to me. But if I have to narrow it to one game and one memory, I’ll have to go with the conference tournament semi-final game against Michigan my junior year. The next day we went on to win the whole thing, but that game was quite the thriller. I just remember all of us relief pitchers were down in the bullpen pacing around, wearing our emotions on our sleeves. We won with a walk-off in extras and we had a big pile out on the field. Sharing that moment with a great group of guys was pretty darn special.

7. How has being a student-athlete at the University prepared you for your professional career?

I’d say it has helped me prepare for the day to day busy schedule that exists in every profession or career path. Regardless of what you do, it seems there are never enough hours in the day. I’ve just learned to prioritize and accept that there will always be more to get done. I think these lessons first were instilled in me while balancing baseball, school and a social life in college.

8. What does it mean to you to forever be identified as a letter-winner with the University of Minnesota?

Needless to say it means a lot. Through college, and specifically baseball, I met my best friends and learned quite a few invaluable lessons. I couldn’t be more proud of my alum and what it stands for. I feel I’m forever indebted to the coaches and support staff that provided me the opportunity to attend the U of M. I can say without a doubt that I have no regrets and I’m fully prepared for what comes next.

9. Advice to current student-athletes?

Without being too cliché, just have fun. Don’t have your blinders on and think too critically or short- term. The U of M is a heck of a place to grow and enjoy your college years.

Name: Heather Dorniden

Click below to watch the video interview with Heather Dorniden.


Name: Jeff Hackler

Click below to watch the video interview with Jeff Hackler.


Name: Mike Linnemann

Alexis Russell

Sports: Track and Field (Indoor/Outdoor)
Competitive season years: 2005-2009

Personal Accomplishments:

Indoor: All-Big Ten Second Team •  three time Academic All-Big Ten honoree • ran the second leg of the Conference runner-up distance medley relay (9:56.15) • placed third in the 200 meters with season-best time of 22.58 • best time in the 400 meters was 50.15 at Iowa State Classic • Outdoors: won the 400m hurdles at the Hamline Unsaintly Meet with a career-best time of 53.62 seconds • placed first in the 200 meters (21.64) and the 400 meters (49.03) at the Drake Alternative • varsity letterwinner.


1. What was your major here at the “U”?
Bachelor of Arts - Art History/History Double Major
Finishing up my Master’s of Liberal Studies degree in Arts Management.

2. Where has your major led you, in regards to your profession?
I am a development officer for the Minnesota Planetarium Society. I oversee all grant writing, NASA, National Science Foundation and governmental contracts. I enjoy young students getting excited about science, technology, engineering and math. My position will be transitioning from the Planetarium to a merged facility with the Bell Museum.

3. What was the most difficult transition you faced after graduating?
Eating less. Seriously. Going from eating 4000 calories a day to a normal 2000 in a week or two, knowing that you won’t be calling up Cal Dietz at the Mariucci weight room in a month to start lifting again to get back into shape, was quite difficult.

4. How old were you when you started track and field?
I completed my first race when I was five years old. I beat Alex Ellering in a footrace at the Melrose Jaycee Park. I was likely wearing jean shorts and an overly colorful 1980s T-shirt.

5. What inspired your track and field career?
Despite my rural village’s size, we still were able to have a variety of summer athletic offerings to us “townies” and the youngest members of the surrounding farming families. Like most American kids, I took swimming lessons, T-Ball, a diluted version of football and track and field. After winning that footrace in such a dominating fashion (so I thought), I figured I could handle this running fast and turning left situation. My mother was a track fan and advocated me to stay active.

The real decision is when it mattered: middle school. Everyone as a child tries dozens of sports to test their aptitude. By middle school, I had competed in random AAU events for track, watched my brothers excel in different sports and I came to realize that 7th graders shouldn’t be hurdling on varsity teams, and they surely shouldn’t be beating kids with longer jean shorts, that’s for sure. I found the community welcoming, especially when my middle brother was on the team for his senior year and encouraged me to join him. To be honest, another driving factor to running track was the co-ed nature. Track just had pretty girls in it at the time. (Still does, so I’m told.)

Alexis Russell

6. Why did you choose to come to University of Minnesota?
I chose the U because of the offerings.
I was well aware of how huge the university is. If you don’t forge your own path, find your niche and excel, you will be swallowed whole. I understood that and relished the challenge that if you want it bad enough, you will be granted every desire of success. Perhaps as a recruited seventeen-year old growing up as a big fish in small pond had me curious if a big fish could survive in an ocean. I did the best I could to prepare myself in high school and can firmly say I made the right decision to wear the Maroon and Gold. Being called by the great Phil Lundin and Roy Griak helped when my high school training facility was made 16 meters too long and had to run on dirt on many meets.

I won’t lie that I also went to the U to compete at the highest level of track in Minnesota. Yes, there are academics of high quality but I wanted to stay close to home and compete at a high level. I bucked the family tradition of attending St. John’s University, which is division III. My eldest brother went there and became an All-American in football. My father competed there in baseball. My grandfather went there and his father before that. They have all been successful in their careers but a nagging question will always remain with them that I (even as a seventeen year old), will be able to answer: Can you compete in the Big Ten? Can you succeed?
I was honestly able to say yes to both and that allows me to live without regret, and look back fondly on the entire process.

7. What events did you specialize in?
400 Hurdles. Sub specialty: long spring relays - 4x400, Sprint Medley Relay, Distance Medley Relay

8. What are some of your all-time favorite Gopher memories?
I have snapshots of my career more than anything and they’re quite vivid. These four really stand out:

  • Handing off batons to really fast athletes. It always gave me a rush.
  • Picking up a gatorade cooler and proceeding to throw it on a coach after a Big Ten team win, twice. It’s much heavier than the Gatorade advertisements make it out to be.
  • Meeting my fiancé at a track mixer. Gophers work well with Gophers.
  • Putting on my jersey. Dick Mattson, “Matty,” the equipment guru, god rest his soul, would say on occasion to me that no matter who we were walking into our athletic building, once you put that jersey on, you represent the Gophers. The first time I put it on for a competition, I remembered his words. It reminded me of Roy Griak, of timeless struggles against rivals and a connection to the past and future. It was the last memory I had when I left the locker-room after my final meet. I’ll never forget that feeling of connectivity to something greater than myself.

9. Message to the former and current Gopher Athletes.
We were given such great opportunities, experiences and advantages in life that we have to give back to the Maroon and Gold.

Not everyone can donate a million dollars to a campaign or offer a job to fellow alumni, but every one of us has something to offer. Athletes always need mentors who have been through the program, who had a similar major and can be connected to successful alumni. I encourage you to be in contact with our M.A.G.I.C. (Maroon and Gold Impacting the Community) program with Anissa Lightner. She always needs quality student-athletes for networking events, internship/job preparation, and a multitude of other offerings.

10. Current student’s reading this:
Start improving your resume today to prepare you for the workforce. You might become a professional athlete, but a torn ACL could change everything. Be prepared for life.
Also, you can always email me, I’m always willing to help a fellow Gopher:

Name: Alexis Russell

Alexis Russell

Sports: Women’s Gymnastics
Competitive season years: 2006-2010

Personal Accomplishments:

An NCAA Championship qualifier as an individual all around competitor • A first-team All-Big Ten 2009 and 2010 season • An all around competitor in 13 of 14 meets • Owned the top six all around scores by Gopher gymnasts in 2010 • Won four all around titles in 2010, and placed among the top three at seven meets • Finished in a tie for fifth place in the all around at the NCAA Regional, earning a 39.10 • Owned Minnesota’s top average score on floor, 9.844, with a RQS of 9.880 • Minnesota’ top scorer on floor at 11 meets this season, winning floor three times • Earned her best floor score of the season, a 9.925, vs. Arkansas • Her 9.925 on floor was the best individual score by a Minnesota gymnast on any event during the season • Compiled Minnesota’s top average score on bars (9.808) with a RQS of 9.845 • The team’s top scorer on bars at 11 meets, earning her best score of 9.875 twice • Minnesota’s top scorer on bars, floor and the all around at the Big Ten Championship • Minnesota’s top scorer on bars, beam and floor at the NCAA Regional • The team’s top scorer on vault at four meets, earning her best score of 9.875 against Arkansas • Earned her best beam score of 9.85 at Iowa State • tallied a beam average score of 9.700, third best on the team • a letterwinner.


1.What was your major here at the “U”?
I majored in Political Science and minored in Communication.

2.Where has your major led you, in regards to your profession?
Currently, I am an Executive Assistant and Administrative Coordinator for a Non-Profit Trade Association Group called, National Alliance of Forest Owners. We focus on preserving private forest lands and protecting forest owners. We do a lot of advocacy. Eventually, I would like go back to graduate school and master in Public Policy with a focus on Education or Health (possibly both). From there, I could potentially work as a lobbyist for a non-profit organization like, National Alliance of Forest Owners, but instead, negotiates issues dealing with Education and Healthcare.

3.What was the most difficult transition you faced after graduating?
The horrible job market! It’s so difficult to find a job. Before the Affordable Health Care Act was passed by President Obama....not having health insurance was scary. Adjusting to living on your own and taking on the fiscal responsibilities of being an adult is also challenging.

4.How old were you when you started gymnastics?
I started gymnastics at the tender age of 2 in a 1/2.

5.What inspired your gymnastics career?
I began flipping around in the house like I didn’t have any sense of what I was doing. So my parents took me to a gymnastics class.

Alexis Russell

6.Why did you choose to come to University of Minnesota?
I chose the U of M because it was close to home (I'm a Minnesota native) and because I liked the coach’s philosophy. Our coaching staff wanted us to leave the program not only as a better gymnast, but also, a better person. Which I did. In addition, the University of Minnesota is an amazing school academically.

7.What events did you specialize in?
All around: vault, uneven bars, beam and floor

8.What’s your all-time favorite Gopher memory?
I would say one of my favorite Gopher moment's was qualifying for the NCAA's my senior year. It was rewarding to put all my work in energy into gymnastics and have it pay off by achieving my dream/goal.

9.Message to the former and current Gopher Athletes.
Enjoy every single competitive experience and take advantage of the opportunity to be your best. You want to create unforgettable memories that you will always treasure. On the athletic side, get involved! It’s also important to in an internship within your field/major. Think about building your resume beyond your athletic accomplishments.

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