When John Whaley received his undergraduate degree in accounting at the U in 1974, all his classes were held in the same building. Now, entrepreneurship programs at the Holmes Center he has championed extend to the broader University community, and he couldn’t be happier.

John and Annette Whaley

Whaley, a retired partner with Norwest Equity Partners, established the Whaley Foundation with his wife, Annette and their three daughters. One of the foundation’s major philanthropic goals has been in education.

The couple wanted to fund the academic side of the U, so they met with Holmes Center Director John Stavig and learned about the center’s development of a startup business curriculum.

“They had something that they were calling the Business Hatchery to help develop the right curriculum for startup business classes,” Whaley says. “We found that to be very intriguing and we gave funding which resulted in a formal establishment of the STARTUP course.”

Although the startup class was a mix of graduate and undergraduate students, Whaley thought it also would be great for students in the computer science and engineering schools, the medical school, or really every branch in the University.

“As we were talking along these lines, the opportunity to fund MIN-Corps came about,” Whaley says. MIN-Corps is a joint initiative between the Holmes Center, the College of Science and Engineering, and the Office for Technology Commercialization. Its goal is to increase researchbased technology commercialization capabilities and activities throughout the entire University, exactly what Whaley was looking for.

“We’ve always thought that it is important for these kinds of skills to be developed at the University because there’s a big need for Minnesota to develop new businesses. We have to learn how to develop and grow the new Target, the new Cargill, the new 3M,” Whaley says.


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