Thomas Holloran obituary.

Thomas Holloran, Former School of Law Professor and Board Member, Dies at 94

Thomas Holloran, a Twin Cities business leader, former School of Law professor, Board of Governors member and namesake of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, died on Feb. 15. He was 94 years old.

“The School of Law that we know today would not exist without Tom Holloran,” said University of St. Thomas President Rob Vischer. “His stature in the Twin Cities community gave it instant credibility, and his dedication to cultivating meaningful relationships shaped its culture. Tom was a remarkably effective and beloved teacher because he taught the same way he lived: with unmistakable authenticity and integrity. The model of leadership he offered was a great gift to the world.”

Holloran leaves behind a legacy of service and mentorship, and a dedication to ethical leadership. As a professor, he challenged thousands of students to think about the role that ethics will play in their professional lives.

In 1985, he became the business management concentration director at the then College of St. Thomas and he continued to teach for the next several decades.

From 2002-20, he served as a senior distinguished fellow, professor and Board of Governors member at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He played a key role in the founding of the law school.

Thomas Holloran headshot.
Thomas Holloran played a key role in the founding of the law school. (Thomas Whisenand/University of St. Thomas)

“He played a number of roles,” Federal District Judge and former St. Thomas Law Dean Patrick J. Schiltz once said. “Tom has tremendous respect among members of the St. Thomas community and members of the legal and business communities.”

In the fall of 2003, Holloran and Professor Neil Hamilton created Ethical Leadership in Organizations, the first course on leadership at a law school, which they co-taught for 14 years.

“The students in their journals called Tom ‘humble greatness,’” said Hamilton. “Tom Holloran is the model for what we hope our students will become.”

In 2006, the School of Law established the Thomas E. Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions with a mission to help the next generation of lawyers form professional identities grounded in a deep commitment of service to others. Hamilton was named the Patricia and Thomas Holloran Professor of Law and director of the center. He continues to direct the Holloran Center, along with co-director Bakken Professor of Law Jerry Organ.

Law school was put on hold while Thomas Holloran served as an officer for two years on a Navy destroyer during the Korean War.

Today, the Holloran Center is a national leader in the study and development of professional formation among law students and practicing professionals. It conducts innovative interdisciplinary research, offers programming for students and provides curriculum development guidance to schools across the country and internationally.

Holloran grew up in Minneapolis and attended the University of Minnesota. He enrolled in the school’s law program, which at the time, required two years of undergraduate work and three more years for a law degree. After four years, however, Holloran was commissioned into the Naval Reserve. Law school was put on hold while he served as an officer for two years on a Navy destroyer during the Korean War.

After the Navy, Holloran returned to Minnesota and in 1954, he married his sweetheart, Patty, which he once called “probably the most intelligent decision of my life.”

In 1955, Holloran graduated from law school and clerked for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Thomas Gallagher. He spent the next 12 years with the Minneapolis firm Fredrikson & Byron, then Wheeler and Fredrikson. Holloran was the fourth attorney to join the firm and became a partner after just two years. He built his practice in business and securities law, and corporate governance.

Thomas Holloran with his wife, Patty, in 2010. (Thomas Whisenand/University of St. Thomas)

Holloran helped incorporate the, now global, medical device company Medtronic, Inc. in 1957 while at Fredrikson & Byron. He joined the company’s board of directors in 1960 and served on it for 40 years.

Earl Bakken, the founder of Medtronic, once credited Holloran as one of the people who gave the company its vision for being an ethical company.

“The mission statement is 50 years old, and it is as valuable as when it was written,” Bakken said in 2011.

In 1967, Holloran left Fredrikson & Byron to work for Medtronic – first as general counsel, then becoming an executive vice president, then president. Following his tenure at Medtronic, Holloran spent 10 years as chairman and CEO of the investment banking company RBC Dain Rauscher.

Holloran served on numerous company boards, including ADC Telecommunications, the Center for Diagnostic Imaging, Flexsteel Industries, Malt-O-Meal Company, MTS Systems, Polaris Industries, National City Bank and Bank of America.

He also dedicated his time and skills to educational and community organizations. He was a longtime board member of the University of St. Thomas (1979-89) and the College of St. Scholastica. He was also president of the Alumni Association of the University of Minnesota and a former trustee of the University of Minnesota Foundation.

Holloran served on the nonprofit boards of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Center for Ethical Corporate Cultures, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Walker Art Center, the Bush Foundation, The Saint Paul Seminary and the National Association of Corporate Directors. Holloran also served for three years as mayor of Shorewood, where he and his family lived, on the Metropolitan Airports Commission for 10 years and as a municipal judge for South Minnetonka for more than four years.

He received the Community Award for Outstanding Service on Boards of Directors from Twin Cities Business Magazine in 1996, and its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. The University of St. Thomas School of Law awarded him its Iustitia et Lex Award in 2009 and its Knowledge Creation and Societal Award in 2004.

Thomas Holloran, left, received the School of Law’s Iustitia et Lex Award in 2009. Former School of Law Dean Thomas Mengler is on the right.

Holloran’s colleagues and former students will not only remember him for his success in business and law, his public service, and his contributions to academia, they will also remember him for his kindness and quiet, unassuming manner.

Former School of Law Dean Thomas Mengler once described Holloran as “one of a kind.” He said, “Tom Holloran has unmistakable presence – a spiritual serenity that exudes warmth and wisdom, care and consideration.”

“It is easy (and appropriate) to mention his leadership and intellectual giftedness,” said interim law school Dean Joel Nichols. “But as anyone who was around him knew, Tom was so much more than that. He was an absolute delight, and one of the kindest and gentlest people around.”

Holloran is survived by his wife of 69 years, Patty; his daughter, Anne Holloran; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His daughter, Mary, died in 2017.