Alumni Memories: Larry and Caryl Abdo, both ’69 BSB

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Larry and Caryl Abdo are owners of Abdo Market House, a Twin Cities-based holding company which includes a commercial real estate development firm and a hospitality group that owns and operates four properties. Both say their education has served them well in their careers, but marvel over the changes that have taken place over the last four decades.

As Larry remembers, the late 1960s can be summed up in four words. “Business was the villain,” he says. “College students were gravitating toward being social workers or going into the Peace Corps. There was a lot of strong sentiment against business, so the business school was unpopular. But, being a contrarian, I thought that if everybody else was against it, it had to be good!”

Caryl’s entrepreneurial bent was genetic; at 12, she was cashiering for Shoppers’ City, a retail chain that her father had founded. Her experience at the business school was unique to the times—she was one of only three women in a graduating class of 280. “You were kind of a stranger in class,” she says. “The professors didn’t take you seriously because they didn’t know how to treat a woman in their class. And the guys either really liked to talk to you or didn’t give you any regard at all.”

Amidst all the turmoil of the decade, the Abdos emerged with valuable tools. “My dad always said there are two things they can’t take away from you—your name and your education,” Larry says. “At the time, the business program included a little bit of everything—insurance, transportation, accounting, law, marketing, finance, management. It was a great variety of classes that gave you knowledge in all the areas that were part of operating any business.”