Peter Falkum ’80 received the 2021 University of Minnesota Morris Distinguished Alumni Award for distinguished service to the school and its students.
Falkum earned a biology degree in 1980 and went on to UMN Twin Cities for a Masters in Food Science. His storied career has seen stints at General Mills, Dannon, and, most recently, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas. He played a key role in getting products such as Yoplait and the Silk line of dairy substitutes onto shelves. Van Gooch, Professor Emeritus of Biology, says, “While at General Mills, Pete was asked if he had ideas to deal with the broken cereal bits that result when making Golden Grahams. Pete used this waste to develop a popular Golden Graham snack bar, turning an expensive waste into a multimillion dollar profit.”
Falkum also exemplifies Morris’s commitment to community engagement. He’s been a coach and a scout leader for decades, establishing leagues, managing teams, and leading packs and troops of Boy Scouts. Emily Darchuk, founder & CEO of Wheyward Spirit, worked with Falkum for years, and what she remembers is his commitment to giving back. “Over the years, Peter has shared a lot about his experience at Morris and how it has shaped him as an individual and scientist. Morris is a special place, and the commitment to giving back and mentorship that Peter experienced while a student is something he has carried forward in all aspects of his life.”
Falkum has contributed to UMN Morris scholarships and delivered the Joseph J. Latterell Memorial Visiting Alumnus Lecture in 2013. Gooch adds, “When I think of Pete Falkum, I think of the old saying of ‘someone pulling themselves up by the bootstraps.’ He was exceptional as a student and anxious to learn.”