As the 10th dean at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, David Kidwell raised the profile of the business school and fostered stronger relations between the school and local business leaders.
Kidwell, 79, died of complications from Parkinson’s disease at his home in Annapolis, Md., in late November.
“Dean David Kidwell was a tremendous mentor to me, and a defining leader for the school,” Sri Zaheer, current dean and Elmer L. Andersen Chair in Global Corporate Social Responsibility at the Carlson School, said in an e-mail. “Many of the experiential learning initiatives he started, like the Funds Enterprise [now named the Kidwell Funds Enterprise] and our international programs continue to differentiate our school and have had a tremendous impact on our students and on our faculty.”
Kidwell was not the first choice to become the school’s 10th dean. A three-year search had produced three candidates before he was named dean. Previously, from 1988 to 1991, he served as dean of the School of Business at the University of Connecticut. Before that, he worked at Purdue University, Tulane University, the University of Tennessee and Texas Tech.
Kidwell was born in Oregon and grew up in San Diego. He earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from California State University in San Diego, an MBA from California State University in San Francisco and a Ph.D. in finance from the University of Oregon.
Among the first things he did when he became Carlson’s dean was to forge deeper connections with local business leaders. He would use those connections to help raise funds for a new $45 million building for the business school.
Kidwell also helped launch international and experiential learning programs, including the Funds Enterprise, which included the Golden Gopher Growth Fund and the Carlson Fixed Income Fund. Those funds now constitute the largest student-managed investment portfolio in the country. In 2018, the school renamed the Funds Enterprise program the David S. Kidwell Funds Enterprise.
“David left behind a legacy — a model program where students work with entrepreneurs to turn good ideas into businesses,” Larry Benveniste, who succeeded Kidwell as dean, said in a 2001 Star Tribune article. “We need more hands-on opportunities for students to work in partnership with businesses.”
Kidwell also will be remembered for spurring Minnesota politicians and business leaders to continue to invest in education and advance high-tech development in the state or risk losing its edge in the knowledge and technology economy.
On March 6, 2000, he wrote a Business Forum for the Star Tribune titled “Minnesota’s economy: Strong buy or hold?” and asked, “Are our business community and our elected officials doing everything that can and must be done to give Minnesota a competitive edge?”
He lamented the headquarters loss of two of Minnesota’s then 13 Fortune 500 companies, Norwest and Honeywell, and the departure of some technology startups. He feared Minnesota would lose out to other regions when it came to luring technology-based companies.
He advocated for more investment in cutting-edge technologies, the creation of a high-tech business incubator on the U campus and establishment of a regional high-tech venture capital fund.
The article and subsequent speeches to business groups led to the formation of a working group and summit on Minnesota’s economy later that year.
Kidwell is survived by his wife, Jillinda Jonker Kidwell, and a son, David Kidwell III. Services have been held.