Happy holidays! With this issue we close out the year by presenting to you our Person of the Year—the individual who, more than anyone else, has had a recent and profound effect on Minnesota’s reputation, economy and society.
This year’s choice leads one of the two largest medical device and technology firms in the world, which also happens to be one of Minnesota’s largest employers and philanthropic contributors. He has steered his business away from stagnating sales into higher growth territories—organically and through acquisitions, including the largest med-tech merger in history. And he has led it through controversies. You can read more about Medtronic Chairman and CEO Omar Ishrak in the article 2015 Person Of The Year: Omar Ishrak.
We also present our list of the 100 People to Know in 2016—those who have considerable influence and are using it well. They include titans, behind-the-scenes leaders, up-and-comers and hopefuls. And what better way to take action on this list than to connect with the people named in these pages? You can meet several of them, as well as Ishrak, at TCB’s Person of the Year cocktail reception on the evening of Dec. 16 (To register, go online to: tcbmag.com/POY15).
The end of the year also affords us the opportunity to remember those we lost, in particular, the “People to Know” of the past who helped establish the economic and cultural foundation upon which we have the opportunity to build today.
Born in Minneapolis, Burwell grew up in North Dakota farm country and graduated with a business administration and industrial engineering degree from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, in 1961. He then served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and taught in the ROTC program at Purdue University (where he also coached the rifle team to the Big 10 championship). In 1969 he invented the first fiberglass barge cover for Cargill and launched his own business, Proform. He sold the company in 1984, then invested in, turned around and grew several other enterprises including Chippewa Springs, Dart Industries’ fiberglass division, Pace Analytical Services and Under Water World at the Mall of America. (View his 2013 TCB Minnesota Business Hall of Fame induction online at bit.ly/1k88OTb.)
The oldest of five children, Clow was born in Barrett, and graduated from the West Central School of Agriculture at Morris with top honors, later training in toolmaking at Dunwoody Institute. He worked as a tool-and-die maker at Federal Stamping before deciding, at age 42, with his wife Gladyce, to start their own metal fabrication business. Three years later, in 1973, they moved Clow Stamping from St. Louis Park to Merrifield, and grew it into a business employing more than 400 people in the Brainerd-Lakes area.
“All … Star … Wrestling!” was something many of us grew up with, thanks in large part to Verne Gagne. He grew up on a farm and left home at age 14 to attend Robbinsdale High School, where he won numerous championships in wrestling. In 1943 he was recruited to the University of Minnesota’s football program, becoming a member of the All-Conference team. Gagne later won Big 10 and NCAA wrestling championships, and was a member of the U.S. Olympic team in 1948. He entered a new sport called professional wrestling in 1949 and about a decade later, joined the newly formed American Wrestling Association. He became co-owner of the organization with Wally Karbo, and from 1960 to 1991, the two ruled the world of televised wrestling matches with personalities such as Nick Bockwinkel, Hulk Hogan, Mad Dog Vachon and Verne’s son, Greg, one of the sport’s most successful tag-team wrestlers in the 1970s and ’80s.
Ask attorneys in other parts of the country for a good intellectual property (IP) law firm in Minnesota and they’ll likely recommend Merchant and Gould. And John Gould is largely to thank for this. Born in Minneapolis, Gould graduated from Marshall High School as valedictorian and got a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Minnesota, then earned his law degree there. A year later he joined the small family-owned IP law firm of Merchant and Merchant, and in the ensuing six decades, he expanded the firm into the region’s largest IP practice as he advanced from managing partner to president to board chair. Merchant and Gould grew into a law firm with more than 100 attorneys and offices around the country.
Born and raised in Adrian, a tiny railroad town near Worthington, Mooty earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1944. A year later, he joined the 12-attorney law firm of Kingman Cross Morely Cant & Taylor. He made partner in 1954, and over the next several decades, helped grow the firm, known today as Gray Plant Mooty, to more than 160 attorneys serving major corporate clients. He also became part-owner in and general counsel for then-insolvent National Car Rental and helped restructure it. He re-created the same scenario at International Dairy Queen in 1970, when the company was worth about $10 million. He was eventually named chairman and held that position for more than 20 years before Warren Buffet paid more than $550 million to buy the company.
University of St. Thomas alumni have Bill Quinn to thank, at least in part, given he served as the school’s longest-tenured board member (1963-1994). Born in St. Paul, Quinn graduated summa cum laude from St. Thomas, where he was captain of the hockey team and president of the senior class and the student council. He then earned a law degree at the University of Minnesota. From there he served as a counterespionage agent during World War II before moving into a long career in the railroad industry. Quinn was VP and general counsel of the Soo Line Railroad before he became president of the Milwaukee Road at age 46, the railroad’s youngest president ever. He later became president of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, which evolved into the Burlington Northern Railroad. He served as BN’s vice chairman and then returned to the Milwaukee Road as its chairman and CEO during most of the 1970s.
If you weren’t lucky enough to know these people, they’re at least people to know about.