Memorializing the Miracle

Former Mayo Clinic administrator Robert W. Fleming had a firsthand role in creating the golden example of teamwork as chair of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Committee.

Bob’s work laid the foundation for the “Miracle on Ice,” when the 1980 U.S. team beat a heavily favored squad from the Soviet Union in Lake Placid, New York, on the way to winning the gold medal.

The iconic images resonate to this day. Sports Illustrated named the game as the greatest sporting event of the 20th century.

For Bob, volunteering with amateur hockey was a labor of love. A former hockey player for the University of Minnesota, Bob served as chair of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Committee from 1969 to 1981 and again from 1990 to 1994. Professionally, he worked for Mayo Clinic for 43 years in various administrative positions.

“What made the Miracle possible was a combination of teamwork, conditioning, discipline, talent and a determined coach,” Bob says. “The 1980 Olympics was the highlight of my international ice hockey service, and I am grateful for all that hockey has contributed to my life.”

Bob treasures the gold medal and ring he received in 1980 and had been storing them in a safe deposit box after learning what recent sales of “Miracle on Ice” memorabilia fetched.

However, he and his wife, Cynthia, and children wanted a better alternative.

Bob and his family decided to give the memorabilia to Mayo Clinic, where he began in an entry-level position in 1950 and ascended over the years, finishing his career as vice president and chief administrative officer, positions he held from 1982 until he retired in 1993.

Bob’s ethos was all about teamwork while at Mayo Clinic — partnering with physician leaders and many other colleagues during times of major growth under his watch, including the establishment of Mayo campuses in Arizona and Florida and the establishment of Mayo Clinic Health System.

Now, Bob’s gold medal and ring have a new home in Rochester, Minnesota, where patients, visitors and staff can view the Robert W. Fleming Family Olympic Memorabilia Exhibit in Mayo Clinic Heritage Hall during normal business hours.

“As a family, we’re very proud of the exhibit the Mayo team created,” Bob says. “We hope the Mayo community will enjoy learning more about this moment in sports history.”

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