'76ers learned how to succeed in business

Thursday, March 29, 2007

1976 graduates of St. Cloud State University’s business program saw dramatic changes during their student years, including an institutional name change from St. Cloud State College, a tremendous enrollment boom and national accreditation. The impressive list of those who earned business degrees that year includes CEOs, presidents, vice presidents, partners and entrepreneurs. The school that had long been known for producing excellent educators was fast becoming known as the place to go for first-class preparation to succeed in business.

Wells Fargo President and Chief Operating Officer John Stumpf is a high-profile example of notable 1976 business graduates. But the list includes hundreds more who went on to make their mark in various fields. Here are just a few outstanding examples:

John Jack Kramer

John "Jack" Kramer started teaching full time in the G.R. Herberger College of Business after retiring three years ago from the Twin Cities law firm Dorsey & Whitney. "If I had known teaching here was going to be this much fun, I would have done it sooner," said Kramer, who brings stellar credentials to the faculty. His senior year he was named Outstanding Graduate in Accounting for the class of 1976 and earned the Harold C. Utley Award for scoring highest in the state that year on the CPA exam.

He went on to graduate second in his class from the University of Minnesota law school, and by age 30 the young man who grew up on a dairy farm in the Eden Valley/Watkins area was already a partner in Dorsey & Whitney, a firm of 600 attorneys where he practiced corporate and securities law. Kramer takes special pride in being a graduate of SCSU and of being hired by former Professor Robert Calhoun to teach at his alma mater. "Students who go to the Herberger College of Business have a great opportunity to acquire all the knowledge and skills to be successful in the business world," said Kramer, who commutes from Edina. "And if you’re planning on going to law school, this is a great place to go. I had better preparation for law school than students from other colleges. Professor Calhoun had already taught me much of what was being covered in law school."

Betty Kimbrough

Betty (Bailey) Kimbrough, McKinney, Texas, retired two years ago as vice president of human resources for all 1,300 Target stores. After earning her management degree, she was recruited into the IDS (currently American Express) management training program. She left when her husband Johnny, fellow ’76 graduate and star Husky football player, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills National Football League team. When the couple moved back to Minnesota a few years later, Betty entered human resources at Northwestern National Bank. She spent four years there before being recruited by Target in 1982. That was back when the chain had just a few hundred stores. While she and Johnny, who serves on the SCSU Foundation Board of Trustees, are enjoying retirement, she is considering a new career. "What’s really pulling at me now is the prospect of teaching at a community college," she said. "The part I miss most is working with students or people just starting in their careers, guiding young people."

Loren Viere

Loren Viere came to SCSU to major in accounting. Now, as managing partner of St. Cloud accounting firm Kern Dewenter Viere, he is in a position to put other SCSU business graduates on the same road to success: 60 percent of his firm’s new hires are from SCSU. His part-time college job at Sears complemented his academic education with sales skills that helped him build his client list and market his firm. He and his wife Deb Bernard ’79 ’86 live in Sauk Rapids. Viere has run across many graduates from Harvard and other Ivy League schools. "It’s always amazed me how they recognize the name St. Cloud State. I got a great education there and moved into the real world well prepared."

Doug Wacek heads Union Mutual Fire Doug WacekInsurance Co. in Burlington, Vt., a 100-employee firm in a region he says is very much like Minnesota. The accounting graduate, who married fellow SCSU student Becky Rebstock ’73, was a CPA with a Minneapolis-based firm, worked for them in New York and was with a Burlington utility company before Vermont’s Republican governor named him commissioner of finance and management for the state. When that governor died in office, Democrat Howard Dean moved into the office and asked Wacek to stay on, which Wacek did until he became chief financial officer at Union Mutual Fire Insurance Company in 1994. He was named chief operating officer in 2001. "My education from St. Cloud State has served me well," Wacek said. He and Becky have season tickets to University of Vermont hockey so they still get a chance to see the Huskies play once a year.

Kevin Kopischke’s degree in distributive education eventuallyKevin Kopischke led him to the presidency of Alexandria Technical College, the school where he student taught 30 years ago and taught marketing and hospitality management the first 10 years of his career. After finishing his master’s degree in educational leadership and spending five years as a Brainerd Technical College vice president, the Morgan, Minn., native returned to ATC as an administrator and completed his doctorate in Educational Policy Administration. He was named president three years ago. As a top administrator, he appreciates that accreditation and high standards are critical in the academic world. "St. Cloud State has a reputation nationally of being one of the places in the Midwest where you can get a premier education."

- Marsha Shoemaker

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