It was the last thing Katie Schmalz, '14 BSB, expected. Last May, the Minneapolis native was seated at Mariucci Arena during the Carlson School’s graduation ceremony when she heard her name announced as the 2014 winner of the Tomato Can Loving Cup Award. “I was absolutely shocked since there were many other deserving students,” she recalls. “Walking up on stage, I felt very thankful for all of the opportunities and experiences I had at the Carlson School.”
The Tomato Can Loving Cup is given each year to an undergraduate who demonstrates outstanding leadership outside the classroom. It’s the Carlson School’s oldest award (its history stretches back to the Great Depression)—and the only award presented during the graduation ceremony.
Schmalz’s remarkable list of activities and achievements made her an ideal candidate. During her four years at the Carlson School, she served as president of the Society for Human Resource Management and on the executive board of Net Impact, a student-led organization that focuses on social and environmental change. She also helped plan service events such as Carlson Goes to Work and helped lead GopherBusiness, which brings high school sophomores and juniors to campus for a week-long summer business camp.
She was equally busy outside of school. “I was involved in a locally founded nonprofit called Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF),” she notes. “With STLF, I led community-service and leadership-based road trips called Pay it Forward Tours across the country. I also served on the board of The Dragonfly Project, a nonprofit that provides help for grieving families. That experience allowed me to apply the business skills I learned at the Carlson School while also serving the community.”
Schmalz is now applying some of those same skills in her new job as a merchandise planning business analyst at Target Corp. in Minneapolis. While she’s excited about this first step on her career path, she has fond memories of the Carlson School. “The University of Minnesota is a large place, but the Carlson School always felt like a family. In that sense, it provided the best of both worlds: the wide range of courses and extracurricular opportunities you’d find at a big university with the advantages of a small school such as close interaction with top professors and individualized advising.
“My goal coming into the Carlson School was to make a positive difference,” she adds. “The fact that I received the Tomato Can Loving Cup Award showed me that I did make that difference.”
Schmalz joins the ranks of fellow alumni who demonstrated leadership as students. Meet four past winners, and see where they are now.
A True Minnesotan
“The U of M was good to me,” says Burt Swanson, '50 BBA. “My education helped tremendously when I started my career—plus I met my wife, Helen, there. She’s also a Minnesota graduate, and we’ve been married for 64 years.”Swanson balanced his academic course load with a healthy dose of extracurricular activities, serving as Business Day chair, president of the Business Board, and president of Acacia, a social fraternity. Immediately after graduation, he was called into the service and spent two years as a U.S. Army quartermaster in Japan during the Korean War.When his hitch was up, he earned a JD from the University of Minnesota Law School and joined Briggs & Morgan, a law firm with offices in St. Paul and Minneapolis. “I practiced commercial law for 40 years,” he notes, “so my business school background was a significant advantage for me.”Swanson retired in 1996. These days, he and Helen split their time between homes in Minnesota and Florida.
The Oldest Living Winner
At 99, Orem Robbins, '36 BSB, is the oldest living Tomato Can Loving Cup winner, having won the coveted award in 1936. “Somebody thought I was worth something,” he says.
Originally from Minneapolis, Robbins enrolled at the University to study finance and went to work for the Northwestern Bell Telephone Co. upon graduation. He put his career on hold to enter the military during World War II, serving in a variety of posts before retiring from active service in 1946.
After the war, Robbins rejoined Northwestern Bell before moving to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Savings Bond Division for the state of Minnesota. He also found time to earn a law degree in 1948. During his two years with the Treasury, he demonstrated his motivational skills by developing volunteer leadership for the sale of savings bonds in all 87 Minnesota counties.
Those people skills served Robbins well in his next venture—a career in insurance. In fact, he became a top seller not long after joining Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. “I made the Million Dollar Roundtable,” he says. “That’s an organization open to people who sell $1 million of life insurance in one year.”
Still, he wanted to push ahead a little farther. “I was already in the insurance business, and I figured I would start another company,” he says. In 1956, Robbins founded Security Life Insurance Company of America. Beginning with one client—himself—he made the company a national powerhouse. Along the way, it became Minnesota’s first publicly owned life insurance firm. He served as president for 24 years and stayed on as chairman of the board up until about 10 years ago.
For all of his achievements, Robbins received the University of Minnesota Outstanding Achievement Award in 2001. Granted by the Board of Regents, it is the highest non-degree award conferred upon alumni who attain unusual distinction in their chosen fields and are known for their public service.
And, after all this time and all the honors he received, Robbins still remembers back to that day as an undergraduate when he received the Tomato Can Loving Cup. “It was a real treat and a pleasant surprise,” he says.
A U.S. Army Veteran
Like all Cup winners, Jerry Ungerman, '67 BSB, was active during his time at the Carlson School. In addition to serving as a student advisor to the dean, he was president of Delta Sigma Pi and president of the Business School Board.
After graduating in 1967, he served in the U.S. Army for two years and then embarked on a four-decade career in the high-tech sector. He recently retired, but remains vice chairman of the board for Check Point Software Technologies, an Internet security firm.
Ungerman and his wife live in Northern California, not far from their two adult children and four grandchildren. “I worked for more than 40 years and have been fortunate to have visited almost every country in the world,” he says. “My passions are family first and foremost, and then golf as often as possible, both here in California and in Hawaii.”
Jill Leonard, '88 BSB, led a career as varied as her years at the Carlson School. During her time at the University, she was a peer advisor, served as vice president of Business Board, helped organize the annual Business Day event, and served as president of Delta Sigma Pi. After graduation, she worked in finance for 3M’s Government Contracts division for nearly 10 years before starting Rooms By Design, a Woodbury, Minnesota, interior design company. She ran that business for 13 years before going to work for Second Harvest Heartland, the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger relief organization.
Leonard’s desire to give back led her to board positions with several Twin Cities-area nonprofits, including two years on the Carlson School Alumni Board. That last role helped bring her back to the Carlson School in a more permanent capacity: She joined the Institutional Advancement Department in 2013 as a development officer. “It feels great to be back on campus,” she says. “I always believed wholeheartedly in the Carlson School’s mission, and I’m proud to be part of it again.”
For more stories about alumni, check out the Carlson School magazine