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Minnesotans You Should Know
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Minnesotans You Should Know

Including those to remember.

Happy holidays, everyone. As you’re reading this, I’m imagining you’re somewhere between just before Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve, reflecting on the year we’re wrapping up and looking forward to the year ahead.

With this in mind we present to you our 2014 Person of the Year—the individual who more than any other is having a profound effect on Minnesota’s reputation, economy and society. He not only leads the largest private employer in Minnesota, he’s enthusiastically changing the status quo within a 150-year-old institution that, well, hasn’t really embraced this level of gumption in previous generations. He’s slightly un-Minnesotan in that he realizes just because everyone in this state thinks his organization is the world’s best, people elsewhere in the world may not—in particular because competitors are upping the ante in their own ways. You can read more about Mayo Clinic president and CEO Dr. John Noseworthy beginning in the article "2014 Person Of The Year: Mayo Clinic President And CEO John Noseworthy".

We also present our list of the 100 People to Know in 2015—those who have considerable influence and are using it well. They include titans, behind-the-scenes leaders, up-and-comers and what we dubbed as “hopefuls,” such as those who are heading up our largest post-secondary institutions, and an Oscar-winning producer we’re hoping will do something to help our state’s film industry.

Before we close out the year, I’d also like to mention a few of the inspiring individuals who passed away in 2014.

Jim Gustafson, 75, was CEO of Chester Creek Technology, a wireless technology company, up until his death. He served on several planning commissions in Duluth as well as chairing the local United Way. Jim also served as a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Businesses and was elected three times to the Minnesota Senate, representing the 8th Congressional District until he was appointed Commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

Bob Hoffman, 85, co-founded Larkin, Hoffman, Daly & Lindgren, one of Minnesota’s most influential law firms. He also served on the Bloomington City Council for 14 years and was instrumental in bringing to life the Mall of America and Target Center.

Lynn Johnson, 84, started Johnson Brothers Liquor Co. at the age of 24 and grew it into a major liquor wholesaler. He grew up in St. Paul and learned from his parents—who ran a family grocery and hotel business—what it took to be entrepreneurial and resilient. Lynn took on industry giants as he built a nationwide distributor with more than 2,200 employees. He also gave back to the community by creating and funding the Lynn Johnson Family Foundation.

David Lilly, 96, was one of three partners to buy a small lawn-mower company called Toro Co. in 1945, and served as its president for 30 years. He also served on, and chaired, the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; as governor of the Federal Reserve Board in Washington and as dean of the University of Minnesota School of Management. Beyond work, he was instrumental in restoring the Mississippi riverfront in St. Paul.

Jerry Mitchell, 84, was one of Cargill’s most dynamic and charismatic leaders. He began as a grain merchant in 1952 but soon moved on, and up, to build and then lead one of Cargill’s most important divisions focusing on corn and wheat milling. Jerry was named to Cargill’s board of directors in 1984. He became vice chairman of the board before retiring in 1995.

Jim Oberstar, 79, served 18 terms representing his northern Minnesota district in Washington, D.C., tirelessly lobbying for the needs and interests of his constituents through various waves of change in Congress. He served as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, bringing several road, bridge and trail projects to Minnesota and helping Northwest Airlines forge the nation’s first “Open Skies” agreement with a foreign airline.

Dale Olseth, 83, served as CEO of Tonka Corp.; Medtronic, where he quadrupled revenues and also served as chairman; and SurModics, which he led through an initial public offering. He was the longest-tenured trustee at the University of Minnesota Foundation, serving it for more than 30 years.

Gerry Rauenhorst, 86, created the family of commercial real estate development, construction and design companies called the Opus Group. Today the business has several locations, hundreds of employees and too-many-to-count square feet of completed projects all over the nation. Gerry also created several grant-making organizations such as the GHR Foundation, the Better Way Foundation, Enkel Foundation and the Opus Foundation.

Horst Rechelbacher, 72, started working at a salon when he was just 14 years old and went on to found Aveda Corp. in 1978 (sold to Estée Lauder in 1997) and Intelligent Nutrients, incorporating fair-trade sourced and non-toxic ingredients in health and beauty products, and plant-based aromatherapy when such concepts were relatively unheard of. His environmental activism is now becoming mainstream in salons around the globe.

Gedney Tuttle, 87, succeeded his father as president of M.A. Gedney in 1967 and helped it become one of the nation’s most successful pickle businesses. Gedney also served as chairman of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and was president of Pickle Packers International. He was an activist for civic involvement and innovation, and worked to improve education in Minnesota.

Bill Van Dyke, 70, served as the chief executive officer of Donaldson Co. from 1996 to 2004. During those eight years, he doubled sales to $1.4 billion and expanded its locations worldwide. He also served on several boards in Minnesota, including those of Graco, Polaris, Alliant Techsystems and the Minnesota Business Partnership. In 2013 he was a finalist for Twin Cities Business’ Outstanding Directors Award.

While we highlight leaders of today and tomorrow in the pages that follow, it’s equally important for us to acknowledge those who helped create the culture and economy we sometimes take for granted today.

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