Charles’s influence at the University of Minnesota lives on through an undergraduate scholarship established in his name in 2003. Tax-deductible contributions to the Charles H. Backstrom Scholarship for Undergraduate Studies in Political Science may be sent to:

College of Liberal Arts
Office of External Relations
University of Minnesota
225 Johnston Hall
101 Pleasant Street, SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Please make checks payable to the University of Minnesota Foundation, and note that the donation is for the Charles H. Backstrom Scholarship.

The Scholarship: A Colleague’s Initiative

Leonard Robins, Charles’s colleague and co-author, conceived and initially endowed the scholarship in thanks for the friendship and assistance Charles provided to him. On the reverse of a photograph of Leonard in his graduation gown at his Ph.D. ceremony, Leonard wrote: “To Charles Backstrom: Thanks for not only taking this picture, but for all your friendship and help that made the taking of the picture possible. Len Robins.” But Charles thought Leonard had it backwards:

I told him, “You don’t understand scholarships – you don’t give it to someone else. It’s having my voice coming across instead of yours.” Yet, I was tremendously honored, of course.

At the May 2003 ceremony held to honor the creation of that scholarship, speakers highlighted the different effects of Charles and his work. Ted Kolderie talked of the unique insight and detail that Backstrom polling always seemed to hold; Dennis Goldenson spoke of the personal and emotional generosity shown to him by Charles as a graduate student and colleague, and Charles’s son Brian spoke of growing up in an environment of constant learning.

As the honoree, Charles had the last word. He brought the focus back to the generosity of Leonard Robins, and of the potential this new scholarship program holds:

It is ironic that this scholarship is named for me rather than for Leonard. He was a kid from a working class family in north Minneapolis who didn’t think he had any special talents, but here was the University, reaching out to him and affordable.
     Leonard’s gift allows the University to reach out and become more affordable for more students like him. I am deeply moved by Leonard’s action here, and am further honored that friends of Leonard and me have made it possible for another Leonard Robins to grow here like the one we already know.

Scholarship Recipients

2003: Elizabeth Dunbar was the first recipient of the Charles Backstrom scholarship. Her research focused on the media’s role in Latin American democracies, including discovering relationships between watchdog journalism and democratic accountability.

2005: Matthew Painschab undertook research examining feudalism’s role in the debate and policies over stem cell research funding.


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