The University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business’ 19th annual Entrepreneur Awards Ceremony will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 24, in the School of Law’s Schulze Grand Atrium on the university’s Minneapolis campus.
The John F. Cade award will be given to Ron Fowler, San Diego, Calif., a 1966 St. Thomas graduate who is chairman and CEO of Liquid Investments Inc., the parent company of firms in California and Colorado.
The Cade Award is given annually and was established in memory of a 1970 UST graduate who died in a 1986 airplane crash. At the time, Inc. magazine ranked his 6-year-old Cade Industries 18th of the top 100-fastest-growing companies in the United States. The award recognizes outstanding entrepreneurial attributes, contributions to the community, ethical standards and integrity.
The Entrepreneurship Alumnus of the Year Award goes to 1985 St. Thomas graduate Greg Hennes, founder of Art Holdings, a corporate art consulting firm based in Minneapolis.
RSW Management Inc., a Balsam Lake, Wis., company that has involved three generations of the Ward family, will receive the Family Business Award.
The following information about the award winners was prepared for the ceremony’s program:
Ron Fowler ’66 — John F. Cade Award
Ron Fowler is the chairman and CEO of Liquid Investments Inc., the parent company of operating entities in California and Colorado. The Liquid Investments group specializes in beverage distribution, with annual sales in excess of $220 million.
Recognized as an industry leader, Ron is the chairman of the Executive Committee of Brick Brewing Co., Ltd. in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Columbia Distributing Co.; past chairman and current member of the Miller Brewing Co. Distributor Council; chairman of the board of directors of the California Beer & Beverage Distributors Association; and a past member of the Heineken U.S.A., Labatt U.S.A., The Boston Beer Company and Beck’s North America Advisory Councils. He is a member of the Chief Executives Organization and past chairman of the San Diego Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization.
Ron’s special interest is higher education. He was a primary financial contributor and chaired the successful campaign to create the Entrepreneurial Management Center at San Diego State University (SDSU) and served as the founding chairman of its Board of Governors. In May of 2005, Ron received an honorary doctorate from SDSU and serves as a member of the Board of Trustees at the University of San Diego.
An avid sports enthusiast, Ron was the owner and managing general partner of the San Diego Sockers professional soccer team from 1987 to 1991. He serves as treasurer and trustee for the U.S. Olympic Training Center in San Diego. Ron chaired the first Mayor’s Task Force that resulted in a new ballpark for the San Diego Padres and served as chairman of the San Diego Super Bowl Task Force and the 2003 San Diego Super Bowl Host Committee. He is a current board member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the San Diego Padres.
As a community and civic leader, Ron received the 1997 Community Champion Award from the San Diego Hall of Champions. He was also recognized as San Diego’s 1997 “Nice Guy of the Year.”
Ron has been the honorary chairman of Easter Seals and is presently an advisory board member of the San Diego chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. He has served on the boards of Children’s Hospital, Scripps Hospital Foundation, and the San Diego County YMCA.
Greg Hennes ’85 — Entrepreneurship Alumnus/Alumna of the Year
Greg Hennes founded Art Holdings in 1989 as a corporate art consulting firm, which works for Fortune 1000 clients to fulfill any art or framing need they may have.
Greg has led the company through a series of mergers and acquisitions, adding several additional art-related businesses to its fold over the years. Today, Art Holdings is a $5 million firm employing 30 people at a 26,000-square-foot facility in Golden Valley. As CEO, Greg’s primary responsibilities are strategic planning, new market concepts and organizational management.
Greg is the current chair of the CEO Roundtable, an active member of the Twin West Chamber of Commerce, American Institute of Architects and the Building Owners and Managers Association. He is also the past president of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization and a current board member of the Commercial Real Estate Executives Network.
RSW Management Inc. — Family Business of the Year
RSW is in the business of investing in the future of companies, whether it is funding an entrepreneur’s dream, investing and consulting with a company through a growth phase or helping a company through restructuring or distress.
In the early 1950s, Richard and Mercedes Ward purchased their family resort, the first business which was to become the beginning of the family-owned and run entrepreneurial business now known as RSW Management. All along family involvement was the mission of the business.
RSW as a company took off when Richard and Mercedes’ son, Ronald, and his wife Stephanie, took the innovative spirit developed in Ronald’s first career as a successful oral and maxillofacial surgeon and dedicated it and their energies to the world of business.
Ronald began purchasing growing and/or distressed companies and invested in them money and his own brand of personal management, and invested in many start-up companies that many banks would not finance. Today, the holdings of RSW span the nation in locations and span the spectrum of diversification in industries.
Ronald and Stephanie decided in 1994 to develop a succession plan to ensure that RSW would continue to be run by a Ward in the future. After investigating many business schools, the University of St. Thomas was chosen as the school to best teach the principles of ethical business practices to their son, Peter Ward.
After graduating from UST in 1998, Peter joined RSW Management and began the process of formalizing a business plan which would give the company a road map for success far into the 21st century and the next generation of Wards.