Of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s annual “40 Under 40” list honoring young business and community leaders from throughout the Twin Cities, an unprecedented 12 are connected to St. Thomas as alumni or current employees. Those Tommies are:

  • Alvin Abraham, dean, St. Thomas Dougherty Family College
  • Jordan Benning ’17 MBA, director of integration, Polaris Industries, Inc.
  • David Burke ’13, founder and owner, Great Lakes Northern Outfitter
  • Liz Deziel ‘ 09 MBA, senior vice president, U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management
  • Nick Dyer ’16 mini-MBA, owner, PubPass
  • Lindsey Hickey ’07, president and owner, Simek’s
  • Mary Jane Melendez ’07 MBA, executive director, General Mills Foundation, Global Philanthropy and Volunteerism
  • Adine Momoh ’06, partner, Stinson Leonard Street
  • Marcus Owens ’16 MBA, Northside Economic Opportunity Network
  • Jamie Tharp ’03, president, PulteGroup Inc.
  • Andy Thieman, former adjunct faculty member
  • Jeremy Wells, adjunct faculty member and vice president, The Saint Paul & Minneapolis Community Foundations

They were honored March 22 at an award reception at Union Depot in St. Paul.

The Newsroom caught up with some of the honoreers to ask them how their St. Thomas education helped prepare them for such a great start to their career.

Mary Jane Melendez ’07 MBA

My education and my family were the bedrocks that prepared me for a fulfilling and purposeful career.

St. Thomas not only provided me with rigorous academics and intellectually stimulating courses like entrepreneurship, theology and philosophy, but it also provided the opportunity to serve others.

My first semester at St. Thomas helped me to build muscles in the areas of prioritization, time management, organization and planning. It also brought a great realization that sacrifice, hard work and pure determination were essential if I was to be successful in college and in my career.

St. Thomas’ study abroad program offered experiences I never had before, including the opportunity to travel internationally and take courses offered in a foreign language. These experiences pushed me out of my comfort zone while at the same time broadened my perspective, helped me gain a deep appreciation for cultural diversity, and made me realize that this world is a big and beautiful place.

Service learning, and the fulfillment and sense of purpose that came from that powerful experience, opened my heart and my eyes to the possibility of spending my life working to make the lives of others better.

Today, I have the privilege of leading one of the most generous corporate foundations in the country, the General Mills Foundation. Our work in the foundation is focused on increasing food security, alleviating hunger and advancing sustainable agriculture. Our impact is multiplied by the thousands of General Mills employees who serve as volunteers in their communities around the world.

Jordan Benning ’17 MBA

Getting my MBA from St. Thomas was one of the best investments I could have made for my future. The Executive MBA program strengthened my leadership, problem-solving, creativity, communication and international skills. Being a part of a diverse cohort model provided for a tremendous amount of learning. I was able to interact with talented individuals during the 21-month program that I still interact with and learn from post graduation.

David Burke ’13

I think one unique attribute that sets entrepreneurs apart is a willingness to venture into the unknown. None of my classes were necessarily focused on building a brand, apparel production or building a website, but St. Thomas as a University (specifically the Entrepreneurship program) is very supportive and encourages students to chase their own ideas. I took a very interesting sales course, an intro to small business finance and a capstone class that taught me several things I’ve carried forward into building Great Lakes. Specifically, the art of bootstrapping and evaluating the financial health of a small business and creative ways to test and prove your ideas and hypotheses before your invest too heavily.

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