New Members Join Minnesota Historical Society Executive Council in 2017

For immediate release

Release dated: 
December 2, 2016
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, Marketing and Communications, 651-259-3148,
Lauren Peck, Marketing and Communications, 651-259-3137,

New Members Join Minnesota Historical Society Executive Council in 2017

The Minnesota Historical Society is pleased to welcome four new members to the Executive Council in 2017, making up a governing board of 30 members. The new members are:

  • Cawo Abdi, Minneapolis
    Cawo is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota and Research Associate at the University of Pretoria.  She holds a BSocSc. in Economics from the University of Ottawa; M.A. in Sociology and International Development Studies from the University of Guelph, and DPhil. in Sociology from the University of Sussex. She is author of the book "Elusive Jannah: The Somali Diaspora and a Borderless Muslim Identity."
  • Eric Ahlness, White Bear Lake
    Eric is the Global Business Resource Group Lead at Cargill.  Prior to joining Cargill, Eric retired as a colonel after 28 years in the US Army.  He was inducted into the National Infantry Association’s Order of St. Maurice and was awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and Combat Action Badge.  Eric holds degrees in Geography and History, a Master’s degree in Political Science from Minnesota State University, Mankato and a Master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the US Army War College.  Eric also serves on the board of directors for the Disabled Veterans Rest Camp Association.
  • Tom Forsythe, Minneapolis
    Tom recently retired as Chief Communications Officer for General Mills, where he worked for 25 years.  Tom holds a B.A. in Communications with concentrations in journalism, marketing, public relations and political science from Minnesota State University Moorhead.  He has served on the boards of Twin Cities Public Television, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, the Minnesota State University Board, and MNsure.
  • Daniel Schmechel, St. Paul
    Daniel is the Chief Financial Officer for Ecolab, where he has worked in numerous positions for over 20 years.  He began his career with Amoco Production Company as a petroleum geologist.  Daniel earned a B.S. in Geology and Geophysics from Yale University and a MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University.  He serves on the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra board, and previously served on the Dale Warland Singers and the Management Assistance Project for Nonprofits boards.


Executive Council members serve three-year terms. The new members were recommended by the Executive Council to the MNHS membership and approved this fall.

The Executive Council is charged with establishing policy, monitoring programs and services, protecting MNHS' financial integrity and selecting, supporting and evaluating the Director and CEO. In addition, the council oversees the annual budget, non-budgeted expenditures, and the sale of major assets.

View the complete list of current Executive Council members.

About the Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history.

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.