"There are few families whose name is more identified with Gopher Athletics than the McNamaras," Director of Athletics Joel Maturi said Monday. "Obviously, Pinky has been so generous in his involvement with the university, serving as a regent, and his involvement in athletics, not only with his gifts, but also his presence both in the academic area and the athletic area. He was also incredibly involved with the alumni association and obviously enjoyed much success on the field as a student-athlete. He befriended me personally on the day I arrived at the University of Minnesota and we developed a relationship and a friendship that was important to me and it's one that I will miss."
Once he graduated, McNamara applied the patience and persistence he learned as a student-athlete to business and then entrepreneurship. He found that he loved to turn things around—to buy floundering companies and bring them to their full potential. By 1988 he had founded Activar, an Edina-based umbrella company for 15 such resurrected companies.
Determined to share the fruits of his success, he made numerous gifts in support of improving student life, including the McNamara Academic Center for Student-Athletes. In 1997, he received the University's prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award. McNamara served as a trustee of the University of Minnesota Foundation and was named to the Board of Regents in 2001.
McNamara was responsible for the building of the College of Liberal Arts' advising center, thanks to his 1992 gift of $3 million to improve undergraduate registration and advising. Six years later, another $10 million gift from McNamara was divided among the U's College of Liberal Arts, men's athletics departments, and the alumni center, which bears his name: The McNamara Alumni Center. That $10 million gift was one of the largest ever received by the University of Minnesota.
In addition to giving millions of dollars, McNamara and his brother Bob were instrumental in raising many of the funds necessary for the construction of TCF Bank Stadium. On the gridiron, McNamara lettered in 1954, 1955 and 1956. He led the Gophers in all-purpose yardage during the 1955 season.
A funeral is scheduled for May 31, with complete arrangements yet to be finalized.