Founded more than 20 years ago, we operate with a simple mission: to educate business families. We remain a vibrant learning community and a trusted source of research, education and outreach. Among the first of our kind, we maintain the unique approach of partnering with a university to match practical educational tools with trusted scholarship and leading research.
- practical tools to help you make important decisions today
- a community of support that understands your needs
- connections to other members of the family business community
- a trusted and safe environment to explore challenging family issues
We are a vibrant community of business families, students, researchers and advisers. Committed to multi-generational success in business and families, we offer:
Harry McNeely and Jerry Rauenhorst, both members of the Board of Trustees at the University of St. Thomas, founded the Family Business Center to promote family business research and educational outreach for business families in the Twin Cities and beyond. They were inspired to do so because of the first-rate education that the younger generations of their own business families were receiving at places such as Wharton. Believing that this type of business knowledge should be available locally, they decided to create an organization dedicated to local business families, providing actionable solutions backed by rigorous scholarship.
Today, the Family Business Center is host to several dozen member companies and continues to grow. All companies are business families, meaning that a family member has either an ownership stake or managerial control of a significant portion of the business, and intends to pass the business along to his or her heirs. Many, but not all, member families have owned their business for three generations or fewer.
Ritch Sorenson, Ph.D.
Opus Endowed Chair in Family Business
Ritch Sorenson is a full professor and teaches graduate and undergraduate classes in family business management at the University of St. Thomas. He was an early pioneer in establishing family business education. He continues to develop new courses and a new concentration in family business. Dr. Sorenson is an associate editor for Family Business Review, the premier journal in family business, and he publishes research in top management journals. In 2008, he led the development of a unique series of conferences at the University of St. Thomas about “family capital” in family business. In addition to his duties at the university, he is an active participant in many professional organizations including the Family Firm Institute, the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and the Academy of Management.
Sara B. Stern
Sara Stern works closely with Dr. Sorenson to develop the Ownership Academy. She also plans the Family Business Breakfast Series and is your resource for questions about the Family Business Center, Family Business Breakfast Series or the Ownership Academy.
Stern joined the Family Business Center after working for Target, where she focused on Executive Coaching and leadership development. Previous to Target, she worked for several family businesses including an education focused nonprofit, where she developed and executed print and web marketing strategies. She also worked for a family-run dot-com startup, where she managed speakers for national and international events. Her career includes work in higher education at The University of San Francisco as well as owning her own executive coaching business, where she developed and led daylong retreats and facilitated group meetings for small business owners. She was raised in a business family and received her first paycheck from a family business.
Jackie Milbrandt focuses on resource development for the academic programs related to family business. She earned a B.A. from the University of Minnesota in English Literature and Theatre Arts, honing her skills in literary analysis and collaboration. She went on to serve overseas in the United States Peace Corps while on course for a master of arts in teaching. As an education volunteer in Uganda, Milbrandt led professional development workshops for student and veteran teachers, and designed and implemented a small project developing classroom resources in 13 primary schools. She applies her academic background toward her work with the Family Business Center, drawing upon her past experiences as an instructor and small project manager to meet community learning needs.
Mary Schmid Daugherty, Ph.D.
Associate professor of finance
David Deeds, Ph.D.
Director, Morrison Center for Entrepreneurship; Schulze Chair of Entrepreneurship in the Entrepreneurship Department
Kenneth Goodpaster, Ph.D.
David and Barbara Koch Endowed Chair in Business Ethics in the Ethics and Business Law Department
Meg Wilkes Karraker, Ph.D.
Professor of sociology
Carol Bruess, Ph.D.
Director of Family Studies, Professor of Communication and Journalism
Margaret A. Tortorella Cronin
Leonard, Street and Deinard
Agio Capital Partners
Paddy McNeely, Chair
Nicholas D. McNeely
The Social Lights
Pritchard Family Auto Services
Emeritus Board Members
Harry G. McNeely, Jr.
2012 Family Business of the Year Award
In 1953 Jim Warner started working at the appliance store that he eventually purchased. Now in their third generation as a family business, Warners’ Stellian is adjusting to compete in the information age by delivering high quality service and an innovative sales approach.
Warners’ Stellian maintains its commitment to the community by giving 10% of its profits and creating new recycling programs which have reduced waste by 90%. The University of St. Thomas Family Business Center is proud to offer support for the Warner family through the Ownership Academy. We look forward to helping them to sustain their family business traditions of hard work, innovation and service to the community.
Past Family Business of the Year Award Winners
Watch a video of the Kowalski family»
Marvin Windows and Doors
Watch a video of the Marvin family»
Watch a video of the Bailey family »
RSW Management Inc.
Watch a video of the Ward family »
The Dalsin Family
Dalsin Industries, Inc.
The Don Regan Family
The Helgeson Family
The Fiterman Family
Liberty Diversified Industries
The Winton Jones Family
Anchor Bancorp, Inc.
The Schroeder Family