Five years ago, the late Winston Wallin, who led the 1980s turnaround at Medtronic before retiring to community service, asked an old friend, retired ADC Telecommunications CEO Chuck Denny, to visit him at home.

Wallin, ill with cancer, asked Denny to take over Wallin Education Partners, the foundation that Win and Maxine Wallin started in 1992 to support low-income Twin Cities kids with college potential. Denny, then 80, wasn’t looking for another post.

“Win was ill but he was still on fire that this was his greatest legacy and he was going to see it perpetuated,” Denny recalled the other day. “I couldn’t say no to someone who had given so much time and, I believe, about $30 million over the years. After all, Win was a scholarship student himself in college. I put in five years with Wallin Partners and it was worth every minute.”

Denny helped expand the donor base and impact. Wallin Education Partners, including mentoring services, supports 540 current college students this year. Sixty percent are minorities; two-thirds, first-generation college students.

The foundation recently announced the Chuck Denny Award, which will assist two undergraduates from the Wallin Education Partners program who will pursue graduate degrees tilted toward public service and community engagement.

“Chuck, along with the late Win Wallin, represents a generation of business leaders that saw their community efforts to be equally as important as their business efforts,” said Susan Basil King, executive director of Wallin Education Partners (

The $44 million smart investment from the heart by Win and Maxine Wallin, and 40 donor partners over the years, has helped nearly 4,000 students attend college. The program boasts a well-above-average 92 percent graduation rate. Nobody gets a free ride. All pay something.

Denny, after retiring from business, focused on community service and refused corporate board work. He spent 25 years tutoring immigrants and high-school dropouts working toward GED degrees; served as a fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs; chairman and trustee of two universities; volunteer with the Minnesota-Dakota Alzheimer’s chapter; and founder with Wallin of the Caux Round on business-ethics standards.

In business, Denny was hired away from Honeywell in 1971 to take over near-bankrupt ADC. He turned down a $1 million purchase offer in 1972. He and his crew added hundreds of well-paying Minnesota jobs and hundreds of millions in shareholder wealth by his retirement in 1991. Denny also has been a thoughtful critic of soaring executive compensation and the burgeoning income gap between the elite and working stiffs.


Tekne awards presentation is on the horizon

Learn to Live, MyMeds and Upsie are three of the finalists competing in 15 categories for the annual Tekne awards to be announced at the annual awards dinner of the Minnesota High Technology Association on Nov. 18.

Learn to Live helps individuals with mental health disorders who can’t access face-to-face therapy or who avoid it due to stigma or lack of access via Internet delivery of mental health services.

MyMeds is focused on a $300 billion problem in health care — and helps people stay on top of their medication with easy-to-use technology and a personal care team. It gets people to take their medication when they should and in the amounts they should.

Upsie offers an app that purchases and manages warranties, providing dependable coverage and pricing options that can be browsed by product category or by scanning a bar code while shopping. More information:


SuperAmerica parent makes offer

Western Refining, the El Paso, Texas-based general partner and part owner of the St. Paul Park Refinery and SuperAmerica, has offered to buy out other investors in a deal worth more than $1.5 billion.

Western made the offer last Monday to the Northern Tier Energy board of directors Conflicts Committee. Northern Tier is a master limited partnership whose partnership units are traded like shares of stock. Western owns more than 38 percent of the units, traded under the symbol NTI.

Investors would get $17.50 in cash and 0.2266 shares of Western stock for each of the 57 million NTI units not owned by Western. The deal is being reviewed by a special NTI board committee that addresses business dealings posing a potential conflict of interest because of Western’s part ownership.

If the deal goes through, NTI units no longer would be traded, and the refinery, SuperAmerica retail operations and other assets would become part of Western. Western said the deal offers a simpler corporate structure and greater diversification, growth potential and access to capital.

The price of NTI units rose last week, while Western shares were largely unchanged.


Cliffs Natural Resources claims state-subsidized Essar hurts Iron Range business

The parent company of Minnesota’s United Taconite, Hibbing Taconite and Northshore Mining has scaled back its sales volume forecast for 2015 due to the ending of a supply contract with Essar Steel Algoma.

Ohio-based Cliffs Natural Resources disclosed that it is lowering its expectation “by 1.5 million tons to 17.5 million tons of iron ore pellets, primarily reflecting the termination of the Essar Algoma pellet sale and purchase agreement in October.”

Essar Steel Algoma is owned by Essar Global, the same India-based conglomerate that is building a taconite plant on Minnesota’s Iron Range. That entity — Essar Steel Minnesota in Nashwauk — is contracted to begin supplying taconite to its Essar Algoma sister firm in 2017. Cliffs officials have complained about $65.9 million in state grants to Essar Steel Minnesota.

Cliffs insists that Essar will soon be a direct competitor and should be forced to repay the state grants because Essar did not complete construction of its Nashwauk project by Oct. 1 as promised.