Carlson School Marks 100 Years with Twin Cities Centennial Celebration
Monday, September 16, 2019
The Carlson School celebrated 100 years of business leadership with an event so large the school needed two days and two stadiums to contain it.
More than 1,200 Carlson School alumni and friends gathered September 13 on the field of U.S. Bank Stadium to commemorate the school’s impact and innovation. The event provided the Carlson School an evening to come together and mark just how far it has come from an original graduating class of 14 students to an alumni network that is 55,000 strong.
“We stand for the belief that business is a force for good,” Dean Sri Zaheer told the crowd. “We’re a force for good in creating jobs, in providing opportunity for all, in fueling innovation, in creating new businesses, new products, whole new industries, and by lifting employees, lifting customers, and lifting us all.”
Nowhere were those principles more evident at the event than in Innovation Alley. There, booths hosted by Carlson School-connected businesses showcased how they are driving business breakthroughs in a variety of ways. Among the notable companies were Faribault Woolen Mill Co., My Burger, Plyo, Rebiotix, Sezzle, StemoniX, and Woodchuck, as well as 2019 MN Cup participants and other local businesses, all of which were on hand to connect with attendees, showcase their products, and highlight the state of Minnesota’s economic diversity.
That innovative spirit carried throughout the evening as five startup companies, identified as “moonshots,” competing in this year’s MN Cup presented products to the audience in a pitch competition. The five companies—Amicii, Harvest Nation, NovoClade, Phenomix Sciences, and SayKid—were chosen by MN Cup judges who were asked to identify local innovative and impactful companies from this year’s field.
After the pitches to the audience and voting done by attendees via smartphone, SayKid took home the $25,000 prize. The company produces the world’s first screenless interactive learning platform. It combines voice technology in the form of a plush robot to help children learn in a safe, natural, and engaging way.
The money, SayKid Founder and CEO DeLonn Crosby said, will go toward reaching more kids that don’t have access to high-quality learning environments.
“A long time ago, Carlson was my moonshot—a goal that I thought was so out of reach,” Crosby says. “I'll never forget the day that I got in, because it was the day that I stopped being afraid to think big. There is no bigger problem right now than early education, so I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to shine a light on the aforementioned challenges as well as our novel approach to solving them.”
During the event, Gov. Tim Walz, University President Joan Gabel, Wendy Nelson, and Simran Mishra all addressed the crowd, along with Zaheer, the Elmer L. Andersen Chair in Global Corporate Social Responsibility.
Wendy Nelson, granddaughter of Curt Carlson and chairwoman of the Carlson Family Foundation who sits on the school’s Board of Overseers, evoked the memory of her grandfather and the ambitions that he championed for the school.
“I wish my grandfather, Curt Carlson, were here with us to celebrate tonight. He would be beaming with pride,” Nelson said. “The Carlson School is surpassing even his most ambitious of dreams … His vision for the school’s possibilities joining with others who came before and after, landing us here tonight, celebrating a century of dreams realized.”
And that education continues to blossom today, according to Mishra, a 2019 BSB graduate and former University student body president, who spoke of how special a place the Carlson School is to her. The magic she felt when she first walked into the school still remains close to her today.
“I still remember my first time stepping into Carlson. I was a junior in high school, passionate about studying business but unsure if it was the right choice,” she said. “But immediately when I walked into the school, I knew I was home. Those of us who have visited the Carlson School or Hanson Hall, you know this almost magical feeling I’m talking about—the welcoming aura and invigorating energy that we all feel when we visit for the first time.”
Mary Pat Blake, ’77 BSB and Board of Overseers member, found the event inspiring.
“It was heartwarming to see people of all ages enjoying the celebration, from new graduates to octogenarians,” she said. “They’ve made their positive impact on our community, both past and into the future.”
In addition to the main program, attendees were treated to a performance from Twin Cities band Nooky Jones.
Lindsay Amundson, ’07 BSB and ’12 MBA, who serves on the Carlson School’s alumni board enjoyed reconnecting with former classmates and professors as well as hearing about Gabel’s vision for the future of the University and school.
“As someone who has attended Carlson twice and has been passionate about getting involved with the school as both a student and alum, I felt so proud of all the work that was done to get that many great Carlson alums and friends together to celebrate this fantastic institution,” Amundson said. “We are all part of a fabulous school and we should be proud of the legacy we are creating.”
The following day marked Carlson School Day for the Gophers home football game at TCF Bank Stadium. The school hosted a special family-friendly tailgate, and members of the Carlson School were honored in an on-field presentation during the game.