Former Director, Anders Andren: Looking Back and Looking Forward 

Wisconsin Sea Grant’s second director, Anders Andren, retired in 2012 after 21 years with the program. 

In an interview, he reflected on the beginning of the program and the significant power of the Great Lakes states in forming the National Sea Grant program when it was conceptualized in the 1960s. Andren said that the Great Lakes states held political sway over the process as well. Robert Ragotzkie, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s first director, and University of Wisconsin System staff spoke with the Wisconsin congressional delegation at the time and got other Great Lakes delegations on board with the idea of including the Great Lakes in the Sea Grant legislation. 

“The Great Lakes states provided a fairly powerful funding block,” Andren said. “If they weren’t for it, the legislation from Sen. Claiborne Pell would never have gone through, and it would never have gone through in the House.” 

A co-sponsor of the bill from Florida (Paul Rogers) agreed to add the Great Lakes to the legislation, and the bill passed. 

Andren also said that when Sea Grant was first formed, its funding came from the National Science Foundation for a year or two, not the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration like it does now. 

Andren is still busy helping Sea Grant on a national basis with site reviews (the process by which Sea Grant programs are evaluated every four or five years), and recently assisted with North Carolina Sea Grant’s review process. He is on the National Sea Grant Science Advisory Board, which evaluates the evaluation process and makes recommendations for changes. 

He’s also been working in southeast Africa and Georgia with his son. The African project is at a resort in Mozambique, which features 20 miles of beach and an estuary that was in need of rehabilitation. Andren helped construct an artificial reef in the estuary. The Georgia project is an aquaculture operation that involves raising largemouth bass for sport fishing and for sale. 

He enjoys recreational travel as well; he and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in England recently. 

Andren hasn’t formed his own band yet (an idea he considered for his retirement), but he does play guitar with a pianist during weekends at a local restaurant. “It’s not really a band and I don’t do it every weekend, but most weekends,” he said. “I also play piano for our condo’s parties and Christmas parties. We have singalongs.” 

His legacy at Wisconsin Sea Grant has spread to other Sea Grant programs. “It was a terrific 21-year span. I think we had an impact on the Great Lakes. That’s something the program should be quite proud of. We were probably the first ones who really funded toxic substance research in the Great Lakes in a systematic way. Now, other Sea Grant programs are finally doing that 15 to 20 years later!” he said. 

Despite his far-flung travels, Andren says Madison is still one of his favorite cities because of all his friends there. He’s also an emeritus professor and visits campus periodically. He and his wife currently live in Florida.—MEZ