Carlson’s example should survive at U

The University lost a friend last Friday as Curtis L. Carlson, businessman and philanthropist, died at age 84. Although few students knew Carlson personally, his impact has been felt by all of us in the University community. By giving generously to the University, Carlson not only bolstered the institution he had attended, but also set an example of how to be a socially responsible businessman.
In 1937, Carlson graduated from the University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Soon after graduation he founded his first business, the Gold Bond Stamp Co., which would later diversify into the leisure and hospitality industry as the Carlson Companies. A tireless worker, Carlson’s wealth was estimated at $1.7 billion in 1998. At the time of his death, this self-made man was the richest person in Minnesota.
While his business exploits alone make Carlson a Minnesotan worth remembering, his donations to the University made a more widely felt impact. In 1986, Carlson donated $25 million to the University’s business school, which assumed his name as the Curtis L. Carlson School of Management. Business students today enjoy the wonderful facility Carlson’s generosity made possible. He also contributed to the campus community by providing funding to the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. These crown jewels of the West Bank campus stand as monuments to Carlson’s generosity.
Carlson’s support went beyond simple financial gifts. A frequent University booster, he stood at the forefront in getting other individuals and businesses to give back to the community in which they live. Carlson was the consummate salesman, and the University was one of his greatest products. Ironically, Carlson was a C student during his time in college, but he never forgot the institution that provided him with his education.
As an individual who profited from what the University gave him and who gave back the fruits of his labor, Carlson set an example for us all. University students should take pride in the fact that he felt compelled to improve our educational experiences. Carlson had a genuine belief that the University should be a world-class institution, and used his considerable financial resources to work toward that end. A man of his wealth could have chosen numerous other causes, but he perceived the benefits of education not just for the individual students, but for all of Minnesota. As generations of students achieve success, let us hope they follow Carlson’s lead in providing our school with support.
Carlson will be truly missed. He provided us with more than just money. He propagated the attitude that the University is worthy of constant re-investment. His legacy will live on not only with the thousands of students who attend the Carlson school, but with anyone who has contact with the University. Today’s students are witnessing only the beginning of the dividends that Carlson’s investments will pay. Unlike human life, these gifts will live eternally.