David Kidwell

Remembering Former Dean David Kidwell

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Carlson School of Management’s tenth dean, David Kidwell, is remembered as laying the groundwork for so many of the key programs that separate the Carlson School from other business schools. He died Thursday, November 28, 2019, at the age of 79.

David Kidwell
Former Dean David Kidwell

“Former Dean Kidwell left an incredible mark on the Carlson School that’s still felt today,” says Dean Sri Zaheer. “I am so grateful for everything he did to help the school.”

When Kidwell became dean in 1991, he directed his immediate efforts at strengthening ties between the Carlson School and the Twin Cities business community.

As part of his efforts to bolster those relationships, Kidwell hosted dinners for local business leaders at his house up to three times a week and frequented a restaurant near his home in south Minneapolis so often that its staff began setting aside the “David Kidwell table.” At those many dinners, he would discuss the future of the Carlson School and how the school could play an integral part in the Twin Cities. In all, he met with more than 150 leaders over those meals.

Those conversations were never idle talk: Over time, they shaped the Carlson School into the leading business school it is today.

Shortly after arriving at the Carlson School, Kidwell asked Bruce Hendry, ’64 BSB, to serve on the Carlson School’s Board of Overseers. Hendry remembers one of the first meetings when Kidwell met with several prominent business people in the region. Kidwell, conducting the meeting almost like a focus group, floated ideas to gauge the interest of the business community. One of them was constructing a new building.

“I think it was probably last on the list in the minds of the business community,” Hendry says. “There was no interest. But David planted that seed and then, throughout his tenure, skillfully shepherded these businessmen to where they eventually were the ones lobbying the legislature for a new building.”

In 1993, Kidwell raised the additional funds for the $45 million structure from 50 different corporations and 20 individual donors. Groundbreaking took place in 1995, and three years later, the Carlson School moved to its current, centralized location.

“I never worked for David, I worked with David,” says Peggy Gabbert, Kidwell’s executive assistant during his tenure. “I was so proud of him for getting the new building. He never faltered throughout that entire process and my heart was filled with so much joy for him and the University.”

In the classroom, Kidwell was influential in helping launch what is now known as the Funds Enterprise. Originally known as the Financial Community Partnership Program when it was established in early 1998, the fund launched when U.S. Bank invested the first $1 million. This program, positioned as the bridge between the theory-based academic world and an application-oriented financial industry, became so successful that many local companies invested an additional $11 million to start the Carlson Fixed Income Fund in 2003. Today, the Funds Enterprise is one of the largest student-managed portfolios in the country, thanks to Kidwell’s inimitable ability to build and maintain these essential relationships between the academic and business communities.

The Funds Enterprise is now one of four enterprise programs—Brand, Consulting, Funds, and Ventures—and seen as a hallmark of the Carlson School MBA program. As such, in Fall 2018, the Funds Enterprise was renamed the David S. Kidwell Funds Enterprise.

“His memory will live on through all the initiatives he started at the Carlson School that continue to make an impact.”

Dean Sri Zaheer

Additionally, Kidwell helped strengthen the school’s international programs. Under his leadership, he forged new international exchange programs, study abroad opportunities, and international partnerships that have led to joint executive MBA degree programs in Warsaw, Poland, and Vienna, Austria.

Mahmood Zaidi, professor emeritus of human resources and founding director of international programs (now the Carlson Global Institute), remembers Kidwell as a strategic thinker who understood the importance of global learning. Within his first year, Kidwell had developed a strategic plan, with one of his main priorities set to spotlight international programming.

“He wanted to put a strong emphasis on developing programs to give students the opportunity to have an international study component and for faculty to have the ability to internationalize their curricula and go abroad,” Zaidi says. “That first degree that we developed in Warsaw was the first offshore degree granted by the entire University and it opened the door not just for us to go abroad but for other units as well.”

Before joining the Carlson School, Kidwell was a finance professor and held endowed chairs in banking and finance at Tulane University, the University of Tennessee, and Texas Tech University. He also taught at the Krannert Graduate School of Management at Purdue University before joining the University of Minnesota. An expert in finance, Kidwell published research in many of the leading finance journals and wrote more than 80 articles dealing with the U.S. financial system and capital markets.

“I knew David a little bit before he came to the Carlson School. He was an extraordinary university instructor, receiving numerous teaching awards,” says Tim Nantell, acting dean of the Carlson School before Kidwell took the position. “I personally experienced this when I listened to his clear presentations of technical research at professional meetings.”

Kidwell’s ability to build bridges between the Carlson School and the business community and partnerships around the globe helped elevate the school to the world-class institution it is today, leaving an unforgettable legacy. The Carlson School honors him and is grateful for his many lasting contributions.

The Kidwell family designated a fund in David’s name. Type in “Carlson Advantage Scholarship Fund” at the following web address if you are moved to make a donation in his memory: makingagift.umn.edu/give/fund.

Spring 2020 alumni magazine cover

This article appeared in the Spring 2020 alumni magazine

This issue of our alumni magazine focuses on our world, how we take part in it, and how we, as a community, are making it a better place.

Spring 2020 table of contents