An Intimate Look at Presidential Families

Presidents’ personal lives in photographs and media coverage

As I collected source material for stories for Eastcliff: History of a Home, I was sorry that so little of what I found could fit into the book. I wished future generations of the presidents’ families could enjoy what I discovered. While some of what is included on this page may be interesting to everyone, some is intended for the families, and as with the intention of the Eastcliff hidden cupboard, I hope they are able to rediscover the past.

The Wilson Family

Left: Newly elected University of Minnesota President O. Meredith Wilson, 1960 (Source: University of Minnesota Archives); Right: Star, January 20, 1960

A January 20, 1960, Minneapolis Star newspaper article titled “Come Right In . . . Meet the Wilsons” introduced the new university presidential family to Minnesota. It included color photos—an unusual indulgence at the time.

While color printing was used as early as 1891, newspapers didn’t regularly print in color until 1977, nearly two decades after this article, and the New York Times, for example, didn’t print in color until 1997, perhaps because black and white was more fitting for serious news. The reproduction of the paper that is archived is in black and white, but was marked with the word “color.”

I included the full page of the paper because next to the Wilson article is a story about Senator and Mrs. Jack Kennedy on vacation. John F. Kennedy had recently announced his campaign for the presidency. There is a rather snarky mention of the vacationing Mrs. Kennedy appearing in bare feet and toreador trousers, while the other women wore shoes and dresses. “And what wagging of tongues there was.”

We can smile at this sixty years later, knowing that Jackie O would become an international style icon. More painfully ironic is the suggestion, from a “pseudo-political analyst,” that Kennedy was running for president just to rack up convention votes. He was expected to then turn the votes over to Lyndon Johnson and become the vice presidential running mate. Therefore Kennedy would be in position to take over as president when Johnson (“he’s a sick man”) died.

Reflecting on the Kennedy story further points out what a perfect, noncontroversial University of Minnesota first lady Marian Wilson would be. She was attractive, poised, raising six well-behaved children, and even baked her own bread. Six days before the family article appeared in print, O. Meredith Wilson had been on the front page of the newspaper, announcing his expected election as president.

Meredith and Marian Wilson returned to Minnesota for a visit in April.

While the future president met with members of the University of Minnesota administration, Mrs. Wilson visited Eastcliff, her future home, for the first time, as a guest of Markell Brooks. Her visit merited a story in the Minneapolis Tribune.

Minneapolis Tribune, April 23, 1960

The Wilson family would move into the Pillsbury mansion in Minneapolis at the end of June, and remain there until Markell had moved into her new home and Eastcliff was refurbished.

A February 1961 Minneapolis Tribune newspaper article announced that the family had finally settled at Eastcliff after “six months of living out of suitcases.”

That story was followed a few days later by a St. Paul Pioneer Press article regarding the “new white house,” and a large color photo.

Pioneer Press, February 19, 1961
This image was scanned (and partially repaired) from a somewhat tattered original newspaper stored in the University of Minnesota archives.

The first houseguest in the Wilson’s household was likely President Wilson’s mother, Mrs. Guy (Melissa) Wilson. While O. Meredith Wilson (called “Met” by his friends and family) began as president on July 1, 1960, his inauguration was the following February. (A delayed inauguration is customary at the University.) The Wilsons, therefore, had moved into Eastcliff just prior to the inauguration.

The senior Mrs. Wilson was interviewed in the Eastcliff living room, while knitting, during inauguration week. Of particular interest was how as a child, in 1880, she had moved with her family to Mexico. She met her husband when he was in Mexico to start a Mormon academy (Colonia Juarez Mormon colony in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico). Their first five children, including Met, were born in Mexico.

The Wilson family left Mexico in 1912 due to the Madero revolution, moving to Texas, and then to Utah. Mrs. Wilson was careful to mention in the interview that all six of her children were bright, not just Met.  

Similarly, Dwight Eisenhower’s mother was asked, when he became President of the United States, if she was proud of her son. She reportedly replied, “Which one?”

Newspaper clipping from the Minneapolis Star, February 24, 1961 (Margaret Morris, “Wilson’s Mother Recalls: ‘Met’ Was a Boy Who Liked Everybody”)

An August, 1962, newspaper article mentioned an event to be held at Eastcliff for the Women’s Association of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (WAMSO) with 2,376 women invited. The Wilsons hosted and attended many events, as have all university presidential couples.

Newspaper clipping from the Minneapolis Tribune, August 12, 1962

Jennie Coffey and Marian Wilson, at an event for the 50th anniversary of the University of Minnesota Women’s Club
Source: University of Minnesota Archives
Left: The Wilsons meet their first grandchild; Center: The Wilson Family, 1964; Right: Met and Marian Wilson, 1964
Source for all three photos: University of Minnesota Archives

Over the Wilson’s seven years in Eastcliff, the children would grow up and three would marry.

Meredith Jr married and the Wilsons welcomed their first grandchild.

Connie Wilson married at Eastcliff in 1965.

Mary Ann Wilson married John Hansen in the last week of President Wilson’s administration in 1967, and have her reception at the home.

Newspaper clipping from the Minneapolis Tribune, December 26, 1965 and the Minneapolis Tribune, December 28, 1965

Former president Wilson attended the Friends of Eastcliff Garden Party in 1996, three decades after his time as an Eastcliff resident. He died in November 1998, at age 89, at his home in Oregon. He was survived by Marian, his three sons, two of his three daughters, 24 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. (Mary Ann Wilson Hansen died, much too young, of cancer in 1993.)

The Moos Family

There are several wonderful stories featuring the Moos family in the book. With five young, active children and several dogs (Topaz, Lord Boswell, Lord Jolly, Sandy, and two litters of puppies) in the home, they had more interesting stories than any Eastcliff family except the Brooks. With the most text of the presidential families, they also had the most text edited out. Following are a few anecdotes that were cut from the book.

The Moos family in 1967, at their home at Ten Mile Lake near Hackensack, MN.
Photo taken by Kent Kolbersteen for the Minneapolis Tribune. Image from the University of Minnesota Archives.

Photo is an outtake from photo shoot for Minnesotan (magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association) November 1967, “The Moos Family Comes to Eastcliff.” Image from the University of Minnesota Archives.

Malcolm Moos was the first Minnesota native and the first University alumnus to serve as president. When he was hired as the tenth president of the University, the alumni magazine ran a profile article, quoting him as saying,

“I was fortunate enough to know that great architect of higher learning, Lotus Delta Coffman, who was President of this institution when I was at University High School. My sister and I used to raise Scottish terriers; and he always used to come to the dog shows and talk to me, not only about dogs, but about what I wanted to do later in life.

“I had Guy Stanton Ford as a teacher of Modern European History. I knew, of course. President Coffey; and as you are probably aware, I received my first teaching appointment from Lew Morrill, who was President of the University of Wyoming. [Morrill was later the eighth president at Minnesota.] I was associated intimately with him in the Commission on Higher Education when we did the study, ‘The Campus and the State.’

“More recently, I have been honored to work with Met Wilson, who is, indeed, one of the foremost educators in the nation. I esteem him, I respect him, and I must say that the Behavioral Study Center at Stanford is mighty fortunate to have him.”

Eric Kaler was the second Minnesota alumnus to serve as president. When Eric was elected, Ann Cieslak, the Board of Regents secretary, found meeting minutes where Eric, Nils Hasselmo, and Ken Keller, all future presidents, spoke in the same regents committee meeting. Peter Magrath was president, Ken and Nils were vice presidents, Eric was a student representative to the Board. (Knowing what to search for, I found it was the educational policy and long-range planning committee meeting on September 10, 1981.)

The Moos dogs

It was enlightening to learn that Malcolm Moos had raised Scottish terriers as a teen. When I first heard of the puppies born in Eastcliff, I had assumed, now I believe incorrectly, that these were “unplanned pregnancies”—the result of having both a male and a female prior to spay and neuter popularity.

Then I found a classified ad from 1984 for golden retriever puppies listing “finest breeding. AKC, OFA, dewclawed, 7 wks, dam Malcolm Moos’ Topaz; sire Candlewood’s Fire. Pups w/personality to grow into fine personal dogs, field or show winners. Cert pedigrees avail.”

While Malcolm Moos died in 1982, and the original Topaz was likely long gone by 1984, this ad convinced me that since Malcolm Moos was already showing dogs when he was in high school, it seems more reasonable to assume that he was breeding pedigreed dogs than that he allowed two accidental litters. A newspaper photo from 1968 dates the first litter of golden retriever puppies born at Eastcliff to that year.

“Boning up for Finals” newspaper clipping at left is from the Minneapolis Tribune, June 21, 1968.

“Family time” newspaper clipping below is from the Minneapolis Tribune,  May 5, 1968.

One sad discovery was that Lord Boswell disappeared. A classified ad ran in the Minneapolis Star and Minneapolis Tribune in December of 1969 for a lost, 4-year-old male golden retriever with Kathy Moos name and phone number. It seems he was replaced by Lord Jolly, who went by the name Sandy.

Newspaper clipping from the Minneapolis Tribune, March 5, 1970.

Learning of Boswell’s disappearance caused my husband to recall rumors we had heard of dogs disappearing in St. Paul during the early days of heart surgery. Dr. Walt Lillehei lived just down the street, and had done research using dogs. The apocryphal story we heard was that a family discovered their missing pet was recovering successfully from heart surgery, but the dog had not had a heart problem before the surgery. This is likely untrue, but, in any case, the research took place in the early 1950s, not the mid 1960s when Lord Boswell disappeared.

The Moos dogs would roam down to the river: The Brooks family dog Rusty was infamous for visiting St. Thomas College. According to a neighbor who lived nearby (as a child) during that time, all the neighborhood dogs roamed. I am about the average age of the Moos children and I recall dogs roaming freely during those years (albeit in Tennessee). A cursory search of the history of leash laws and concerns about pet overpopulation reveals that neither of these issues gained public awareness until the 1970s.

When Malcolm Moos first arrived in Minnesota as president, the newspaper articles featured the charming story of how he and Tracy met on a blind date. As described in Eastcliff: History of a Home, they were on a double-date, and they were not each other’s date.

Minneapolis Tribune, July 3, 1967
Minneapolis Tribune, July 3, 1967
From a photo shoot from Minnesotan (magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association) November 1967, “The Moos Family Comes to Eastcliff.” Images from the University of Minnesota Archives.
(See more in Eastcliff Animals page on this website.)
Photos from Minnesotan (magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association) November 1967, “The Moos Family Comes to Eastcliff”

The Von Trapp sisters or Twisted Sister?

In November, Minnesotan (the magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association) had a story featuring the new first family. The singing sisters and the stairwell photo seem made to evoke the Von Trapp family of the movie musical The Sound of Music. That movie had been a huge hit just two years earlier.

Two decades later Grant Moos would colorfully write, “Having us storm in after O. Meredith Wilson and his family was like having Marie Osmond as the warm-up to Twisted Sister.”

The waterbed

Malcolm Moos Jr. had a waterbed in Eastcliff. Modern waterbeds were patented in the US in 1971 and didn’t really become popular until the mid- to late-1970s, so his waterbed was still a novelty at the time. Little sister Simmy and her friends had a great time jumping on the bed, until a leak sprung and water began dripping through the ceiling into Mae McBroom’s kitchen. After Malcolm left for college around 1971, waterbeds were still unusual. Grant came home from school one day to find that there was an event going on in the house. This was not uncommon, nor was it a surprise. He went upstairs and heard odd sounds coming from his brother’s (supposedly empty) bedroom. Finding a group of Chinese students upstairs jumping on the waterbed was a surprise.

The Eastcliff fence was in poor repair while the Moos family was in residence. Since painting the fence wasn’t part of the Eastcliff budget, Tracy requisitioned paint and brushes. Tracy and the five Moos children painted the fence. They had such a good time that Tracy’s friend, and University donor, Dolly Fiterman came to help. This was not fully akin to the episode in Tom Sawyer, as the Moos family continued with the painting. The paint would be peeling again in fifteen to twenty years, as shown in the newspaper photo, and the fence would be replaced, at great cost both financially and reputationally, during the Keller administration.

Newspaper clipping from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 10, 1988

In 1968, Tracy Moos hosted a Twin Cities Variety Club Women luncheon that was featured in a newspaper column.

Newspaper clipping from the Minneapolis Tribune, June 13, 1968

In 1988, fifteen to twenty years after many of the Moos family adventures at Eastcliff (but twenty to twenty-five years before the family shared stories with me), Grant Moos wrote a newspaper article in response to the 1988 renovation.

Newspaper clipping from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 17, 1988

The Shoe House

In 1996, two decades after leaving Eastcliff, Tracy Moos lived in another famous house: The “Soul People” house, also known as the “Shoe House” in St. Paul.

Left: Watercolor by Tracy Moos. See also: See also:

Artist Tyree Guyton was already famous for using art to battle urban blight in Detroit with his Heidelberg Project. He approached Tracy about a work in St. Paul to again combine art with neighborhood rejuvenation, and she was game. He created this work of urban environmental art by stapling thousands of shoes to Tracy’s house.

Tracy was quoted in newspapers from Chicago to St. Louis as saying, “Frogtown is what you might politely refer to as one of the lesser neighborhoods of the Twin Cities.” Mr. Guyton noted that drug dealers are unlikely to ply their wares on sidewalks if they must share those sidewalks with tourists appreciating art.

While the shoe house was disassembled years ago, in 2019, Tyree Guyton was still making art and making news.

Tyree Guyton, artist and founder of the Heidelberg Project. Photo by Damon Casarez for The New York Times, published May 9, 2019.
Left: “Move to the rear, Rosa Parks bus” by artist Tyree Guyton;
Center: Tracy Moos with a friend (and her car) at the Friends of Eastcliff Garden Party in 2015, when the theme was monarch butterflies;
Right: Grant and Tracy at the 2015 event.
Members of the Moos family at the Friends of Eastcliff Garden Party, 2017
Left to right: Grant Moos, Tracy Moos, Kathy Moos, Margie Moos Peterson, back row: David Peterson
Photo by Patrick O’Leary, University of Minnesota

Tracy Moos died on June 22, 2022, on the eve of her ninety-ninth birthday.

(See for a lovely tribute.)

The Magrath Family

Left to right: top photo: Peter (left), unknown (center) and Sandra Magrath (right); bottom photo: Sandra, Peter, and Valerie Magrath (both photos from the University of Minnesota Archives), Minneapolis Tribune, October 13, 1974; Sandra Magrath’s column “Notes from Eastcliff”, Minnesota Alumni News, September 1976; The Minneapolis Star, April 25, 1977.
Left to right: Minneapolis Star, March 21, 1978, Minneapolis Tribune, March 24, 1978, Minneapolis Tribune, March 26, 1978, Minneapolis Star, March 27, 1978,

When President Peter Magrath married Diane Skomars at Eastcliff in March 1978, reporters were present and a photo from the reception was on the front page of the Sunday Minneapolis Tribune.

Minneapolis Tribune, December 26, 1979

When Diane Skomars Magrath appeared in a front page story in December 1979, she was in control of the narrative, using the media interest in her personal life to promote the University and to professionalize the role of “Partner of the President.”

Diane’s professionalism and salary (paid to her by her husband from his salary) would later gain national attention and newspaper stories when the couple worked at the University of Missouri. Before that notoriety, in Minnesota in 1981 Diane used interest in her paid arrangement to explain how the previous eleven partners to the university president had served the university, receiving press coverage in an article titled “Diane Magrath continues a university tradition as partner of president.”

Minneapolis Tribune, October 30, 1981

Diane’s most successful means of promoting the University was developing the KSTP-TV television show Matrix, a magazine style show with segments that promoted University of Minnesota scholars and their research, and how that research contributes to society. She recruited alum Peter Graves, an actor famous for his role in Mission Impossible series, as the host.

Newspaper clipping from the Minneapolis Tribune, October 30, 1981

After two seasons Peter Graves stepped down as host of Matrix due to his busy acting schedule, and Diane recruited University sports great Dave Winfield as host.

Photo: C. Peter Magrath, David Winfield, and Diane Skomars Magrath at Eastcliff, 1980 (This photo was particularly interesting to me because it shows the 1980 wallpaper in the Eastcliff grand staircase.)

Source: University of Minnesota Archives

Twin Cities magazine, May 1980 (Source for images: Magazine stored at the University of Minnesota archives)

The personal interest in the family, and in Eastcliff, continued. In May 1980, Eastcliff was the feature story in Twin Cities magazine.

In September of the same year, the family was on the cover of Minnesota, the magazine on the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. 

Minnesota (the magazine of the Minnesota Alumni Association), November 1980

Magazine captions, left to right: 1) Wife and working ‘Partner to the President,’ Diane Magrath reserves a “right to say what I think;” 2) Before becoming Monette’s stepfather in 1978, President Magrath had never eaten a McDonald’s hamburger; 3) Six-year-old Monette holds Max, a recent birthday present, while enjoying an after-school snack (Note: Max the dog is very hard to see in the photo.)

In 1983, Diane became the face of the Minnesota’s Greatest and Best Recipes: A University of Minnesota Cookbook. The book was a fundraiser for the David Winfield Development Fund for recreational sports at the University. The final section of the book is titled “Eastcliff,” and contains both menus and recipes from events and Magrath family favorites. Some of the menus and recipes are in Eastcliff: History of a Home.

Newspaper clipping from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, January 5, 1983

In 1999, Diane and her husband, Max Morath, co-authored the book Max Morath: The Road to Ragtime. See for more information on Diane and Max today.

In 2001, Diane was in her photography studio in Manhattan during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. Not knowing whether she would survive, Diane called her daughter, Monette, and tearfully ended the call with, “Have I taught you everything I know?” The question inspired Diane to write a daily journal to her daughter throughout 2003. After Monette read the journal, she returned it to Diane with the advice that she should have it published. She did so in 2014.

The Keller / Sindelir Family

Minnesota magazine Special Edition 1988

When Ken Keller was named as president of the University in 1985, Minnesota magazine ran a special issue. In an article on Ken and Bonita, Bonita shared a prescient nightmare she had about a disaster at Eastcliff. In November of that year, the much-needed ongoing remodel of the house was described on the first page of the “Shelter” section of the Star and Tribune.

Minneapolis Star and Tribune, November 9, 1988
Minneapolis Star and Tribune, November 9, 1988
More about this newspaper article in the post on this website titled “The $600,000 Kitchen that Wasn’t.”

The Hasselmo Family

While Nils Hasselmo focused on improving undergraduate education at the University, Pat Hasselmo focused on improving support for Eastcliff. The couple welcomed tours and reporters into the home so they could see for themselves that the renovations were appropriate. Pat was instrumental in starting Friends of Eastcliff.

Minnesota, July/August 1994
Minnesota, May/June 1997

The Yudof Family

After Mark Yudof was elected as president, a story about him in the Sunday, December 22, 1996, Star Tribune showed this photo with the caption “Judy Yudof, at home in Austin. She promises to assume ‘an extremely public’ role in promoting the University of Minnesota.” Her most prominent activity was overseeing the redecoration of Eastcliff and a successful application for Eastcliff being included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Star Tribune, December 15, 2000

Judy Yudof and the Eastcliff redecoration were the feature story in Minnesota: The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, March–April 2000, with photographs by Mark Luinenburg.

Minnesota: The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, March/April 2000
Minnesota, March/April 2000
Minnesota, March/April 2000
Minnesota, March/April 2000

Judy Yudof was interviewed at Eastcliff on PBS NewsNight Minnesota. The video is available at

Screen captures from PBS NewsNight Minnesota video
Top row, left to right: Eastcliff living room, garden room, walnut den
Bottom row, left to right: Eastcliff dining room, entry hall, basement

An odd incident occurred outside the Eastcliff fence in 2002, when protestors erected a teepee. A photo of that event is at

The Bruininks / Hagstrum Family

Susan Hagstrum was featured in a cover story in Minnesota: The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, January/February 2009, with photograph taken at Eastcliff.

Minnesota: The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, January/February 2009

In 2009, the Bruininks/Hagstrum couple gave a tour of Eastcliff to the Minnesota Daily, which resulted in the story by Matt Graham titled “Taking a guided tour inside Eastcliff”

Minnesota Daily, August 17, 2005

The Summer 2011 edition of Connect (magazine of the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development) had an article on Susan Hagstrum titled “Life’s Currents.” The article, celebrating her tenure as presidential partner, was listed on the cover as “Susan Hagstrum: A First Lady reflects.”

Connect, Summer 2011

The Kaler Family

Eric was inaugurated on September 22, 2011. A photo of us greeting students appeared on the next day, which happened to be Eric’s birthday. Two years later, the Goldy Gopher statue was unveiled on that same date (September 23) and the Governor issued a proclamation that it was Goldy Gopher day—which is how Goldy and Eric came to have the same birthday.

Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 23, 2011
Minnesota Daily, November 1, 2011 (Available at

A Minnesota Daily story by Greta Kaul on November 1, 2011, introduced me and Eastcliff to University of Minnesota students. As the interview took place during the Eastcliff Halloween party, I was dressed as Mary Todd Lincoln. Eric joked, “Karen told me we couldn’t go see a play tonight.”

Another lovely story in the Minnesota Daily (May 6, 2014) was titled “The University’s No. 1 ambassador,” and began with the joke I liked to share about my Tennessee roots: “Karen Kaler is a naturalized Gopher.”

The article included this schedule of the week I was interviewed, and photos taken at Eastcliff. I was particularly pleased that the journalist, Tyler Gieseke, included the names of all the former University of Minnesota presidential partners—the first time I saw all the names together in print.

Clipping from the Minnesota Daily, May 6, 2014

I have added a photo below from a Homecoming parade. One odd aspect of the role of presidential partner at the University of Minnesota not mentioned in my Eastcliff book is participating in parades. We were in the Delano July 4 parade, the Aquatennial parade, the Minnesota State Fair parade, and the annual U Homecoming parades.

When riding in parades, those in cars or floats wave at those watching, which seems an odd tradition, as the only real difference between the riders and the watchers is that one is moving. This becomes more strange if there is a parade traffic jam (they happen) and the riders hold still for a while. What is the expected protocol? Wave at everyone again? (That becomes silly if the stop lasts longer than a minute or two.) Pretend you are suddenly busy with an important conversation with your float-mate? Gaze at the sky as if looking for storm clouds? I don’t have the answer, but after being a parade participant, I now wave enthusiastically to anyone else I see in a parade, and I urge you to do the same. Those people need something to do.

The Gabel Family

I began writing Eastcliff: History of a Home during the last few years I lived at Eastcliff, and finished it in 2020, which was early in Joan Gabel’s presidency. As a result, there is less information about the Gabel family than the other families. I will end this section with a few photos from President Gabel’s inauguration.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 20, 2019
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 20, 2019
From the St. Paul Pioneer Press, September 21, 2019, at

Please note: The above text was edited from Eastcliff: History of a Home due to lack of space. It is intended as a supplement to the book.

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