Wallin fund delivers on legacy aspirations

Before his death in 2010, Twin Cities business lion Win Wallin hoped aloud that the college-scholarship program he started in 1992 would prove his greatest legacy. The Wallin family and dozens of other generous investors continue to fulfill his generous and worthy aspiration.

Wallin Education Partners has aided 4,400-plus college students through nearly $50 million in scholarships and critical guidance services.

Wallin, who focused on community service after retiring from Medtronic, started Wallin Partners with his wife, Maxine, 25 years ago with several hundred thousand dollars for needy graduates of Minneapolis South High. Wallin graduated from South in 1943.

The Wallin family has donated millions over 25 years and is the single largest contributor. Wallin Partners is a significant private funder and adviser to lower-income Twin Cities high school graduates, mostly of color, who need financial assistance. Many are first-generation collegians.

Executive Director Susan Basil King said 640 Wallin Partners scholars will be enrolled in college next fall.

They will receive $14.1 million, an average of $22,000 apiece, over four years, including a Wallin Partners counselor. Wallin scholars boast a 93.5 percent graduation rate. That compares with 15 percent for low-income minority students.

“For years the Wallin family contribution has anchored the program, and their significant commitment continues,” King said in a recent e-mail message. “In the new cohort, the Wallin family will support 25 percent of the scholarships with the remaining 75 percent supported by our other foundation, corporate and individual donors. We now have 63 donor partners who are supporting at least one scholar in the program.”

Wallin Partners has awarded scholarships to students from 39 Twin Cities high schools.

More information at

Neal St. Anthony


Grangaard caps strong run at Allen Edmonds

Paul Grangaard, the CEO of Wisconsin-based shoemaker Allen Edmonds announced he is retiring.

Grangaard, a former executive at Piper Jaffray and Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison, stepped in as CEO of the shoemaker in 2008. During the Great Recession, Edmonds nearly collapsed. Goldner Hawn invested an additional $10 million as other investment partners backed out.

Grangaard was an active leader who listened, learned quickly, improved operations, opened company-owned stores, grew the online business, introduced more accessories and apparel and revived some classic shoe styles.

Allen Edmonds, which grew sales and earnings annually since 2010, saw employment nearly double to 750.

After nine years of commuting to Milwaukee, Grangaard said he plans to spend more with family and pursue his longtime interest in music.

In 2013, Los Angeles-based private equity firm Brentwood Associates bought Allen Edmonds for an estimated $200 million. Last December, Brentwood sold Edmonds for $225 million to St. Louis-based Caleres. The footwear firm owns Famous Footwear and other shoe brands.

Earlier this year, Grangaard, who also opened two Twin Cities stores, said in a Star Tribune interview: “Less than 2 percent of the shoes bought in the U.S. in 2015 were made in the USA. We’re one of the last remaining American shoemakers as is [Minnesota-based] Red Wing Shoes, by the way.

“I came to the company as a finance and investments guy who happened to notice people’s shoes. Like any ‘extroverted’ Lutheran of Norwegian descent, we look at your shoes when talking to you! I didn’t know retail management, shoemaking techniques, leather types, sole adhesion ... that important stuff. So, I give all the credit to the workers in every role at our company.”



Brilliant Reflective lights up the night

Oakdale-based Brilliant Reflective is donating 500,000 packs of its reflective strips, worth $5 apiece, for clothing and gear to schools, clubs and event organizers to make it easier to be seen in the dark.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said more than 5,300 pedestrians are killed and an estimated 70,000 injured in traffic crashes in the United States each year.

“Brilliant Reflective is all about visibility, from keeping people safe outside while doing what they love to giving them more time in the day to exercise,” said Chuck Gruber, president of Safe Reflections, parent company of Brilliant Reflective. “Our strips, when attached to bikes, backpacks, leashes, shoes, helmets and anything else that’s worn, ridden or carried, will help people be safers.”

To create the stick-on strips, Brilliant Reflective starts with 3M Scotchlite reflective material, colors it and applies an adhesive backing. Schools or event sponsors that have upcoming youth or athletic events can request packs at

staff report