Former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and Cal Poly administrator Sandra Garderbring Ogren died Tuesday after a nine-year battle with a rare form of cancer. The San Luis Obispo resident was 63.
Ogren, who retired from Cal Poly last month, was hired in 2004 as the university’s interim vice president of advancement, handling alumni, corporate, government and foundation relations as well as public affairs. President Warren Baker appointed her to the position full time in 2006.
“(Sandra) Ogren was an outstanding vice president for advancement, one of the best in the country,” Baker said in a statement Wednesday. “She had a transformative impact on advancement here at Cal Poly, overseeing establishment of a philanthropic foundation, laying the groundwork for a university campaign, and securing private funds for a landmark new science building. … A person of extraordinary integrity, high ideals, compassion and empathy, she was deeply committed to her family and many friends. She will be greatly missed.”
Before working for Cal Poly, Ogren was “a powerful, ubiquitous presence in Minnesota state government, its judiciary and higher education for more than three decades,” Bob Von Sternberg of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote.
Her position is expected to be filled when Baker’s successor is named. Baker is retiring at the end of the month after 31 years as Cal Poly’s president.
Ogren was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1991 and “unexpectedly retired in 1998, saying ‘I didn’t want to be a judge for 27 years,’ ” according to Von Sternberg. He added, “Her appointment was noted nationally because it made Minnesota the first state to have a female-majority Supreme Court.”
Before being named to the court, Ogren had spent three years as a state appeals court judge. She also headed then-Gov. Rudy Perpich’s Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
She left the state’s highest court at age 51 to take a job at the University of Minnesota as vice president for institutional relations. She met Paul Ogren while she was serving as the state commissioner of human services and he chaired the state House committee that had oversight of her department, Von Sternberg wrote.
Although the couple owned a second home in San Luis Obispo, it wasn’t until Baker made an unsolicited job offer that she and Ogren moved to the Central Coast full time.
“When it came to her work, if it wasn’t hard and challenging, if she wasn’t learning, it was time to move on to something else, which she did again and again,” Paul Ogren told the Star Tribune.
“She was a risk-taker who put herself in positions that challenged her.”
In addition to husband Paul, Ogren is survived by her stepchildren, Samuel and Shana.
Services will be held at Mount Carmel Lutheran Church in San Luis Obispo on Aug. 7.
Tribune staff writers Bill Morem and Nick Wilson contributed to this report.