Alumnus gives $6 million for entrepreneurship program

The donation was the third-largest gift ever given to the Carlson School.

James Schlemmer

Gary Holmes said the only place he ever saw his name when he was growing up was on the chalkboard at school when he was in trouble.

His name will now appear in the Carlson School of Management when the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies is renamed the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship.

This decision comes after Holmes announced that he will donate $6 million to improve teaching, research and outreach programs in entrepreneurship, according to John Stavig, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.

Holmes’ gift is the third-largest such donation ever given to the Carlson School. The other two gifts were from University alumni Herb Hanson in 2004 and Curt Carlson in 1999.

Holmes was a student at the University from 1965 to 1969. The president and founder of locally based CSM Corporation has been a guest speaker in classes in the program and serves on the advisory board for the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

He said he believes in the program because of its hands-on approach.

“I learned a lot by doing rather than textbook (assignments),” Holmes said. “I believe in the program and bringing in real-life people.”

Stavig said the program is the fastest growing part of the Carlson School. And while he was pleased with the gift, he is not surprised by the generosity.

Holmes “has been really involved in the program for a while,” he said. “It’s not a surprise that he supported us.”

Travis Boisvert, who graduated from the University in December with a double major in marketing and entrepreneurship, said the donation will help Carlson stand out.

“This will put Carlson on the map both nationwide and worldwide. They have really been pushing exposure to Asia,” he said. “It is really well-known in the Midwest area, but people in California and New York don’t really know about it. It is one of the best in the nation and will put (Carlson) on the top of the rankings.”

Holmes said he wants to do what he can to help the next generation of local entrepreneurs.

“(Local entrepreneurs) start new businesses,” he said. “Hopefully they stay in the state. There are a lot of homegrown big companies.”

Boisvert, now a finance analyst for Northwest Airlines, said entrepreneurs are what keep the business world running.

“Every store you shop at and every place you get food – they all started somewhere by an entrepreneur,” he said. “Target and Best Buy were started by local entrepreneurs.”

Stavig said something that separates the University from other entrepreneurship programs around the nation is the Entrepreneurship in Action course.

The course gives teams of students up to $15,000 to conceive, launch and operate a real business. Stavig said the only other school in the world that offers a similar class is Babson College in Massachusetts. It is an entirely student-directed effort where students select the businesses, elect officers and make all major decisions.

Finance senior Zlata Karpas took the course and said it was a great experience but not everyone is accepted. She said with the gift from Holmes, the University could create a second course.

Entrepreneurs “are the most creative people you’ll meet,” she said. “Plus, having the financial means to back it up gives more possibility.”

Holmes said students should take advantage of the unique opportunities on campus for entrepreneurs.

“I wish they had this when I was there,” he said. “It is much more valuable than a textbook.”