Minneapolis Public Schools will honor school board member Hussein Samatar, a civil-war refugee who went on to plant some of the first seeds of Somali-American politics, at a memorial service Tuesday. The 45-year-old died last week of complications from leukemia.
Minneapolis schools will forever be indebted to Samatar's leadership, said Bernadeia Johnson, superintendent.
"Hussein was a passionate leader, a committed public servant, a dedicated collaborator and a valued friend," said Johnson.
Samatar helped chair a referendum committee that secured a $60 million schools levy in 2008.
He completed his studies from Somalia's National University in 1991. But just four days after graduating, he had to shelve his dreams of being an economist because of a civil war that erupted in his homeland. The bloodshed eventually claimed the lives of his sister, friends and classmates.
As part of the first wave of Somali refugees in Minnesota, he learned English with the help of a Minneapolis librarian. Eventually, he earned his Master's in business administration from the University of St. Thomas.
Samatar became the first Somali-American elected to public office in Minnesota when he won a seat on the school board three years ago, providing a strong voice for immigrant families and children.
He also founded and directed the African Development Center, which helps immigrants and refugees build wealth in the community.
A memorial fund to benefit Samatar's wife and four children has been set up at Bremer Bank.
The service begins at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday at the Davis Center, 1250 W. Broadway Ave. in Minneapolis.