Monday Moments with President Bergman: October 22, 2018

Gustavus President Rebecca M. Bergman shares her thoughts with College employees each week.
Posted on October 22nd, 2018 by

President Rebecca M. Bergman

I received word last night that my friend and mentor, Earl Bakken, co-founder of Medtronic, died yesterday at his home in Hawaii at the age of 94.

I was privileged to know and work with Earl during my years at Medtronic. He was an inspiration to me. In Earl’s honor, I want to reflect on a few of the lessons I learned from him.

Earl Bakken was a mission-centered person. He wrote the Medtronic mission in 1960, and not a word has changed since then. From Earl, I learned that a compelling mission is a powerful force for an organization and its employees. Medtronic’s priority is to contribute to human welfare – to “alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.” The mission clearly puts the patient at the center of every decision, and this is deeply embedded in the company’s culture.

Earl Bakken was a visionary and a dreamer. He often told the story of writing a 100-year plan for the company. He believed in delivering medical technology innovations to the market that would restore full life to patients. Earl himself was the recipient of several Medtronic devices. He had a pacemaker, cardiac stents, and an insulin pump to treat diabetes.

Earl Bakken believed in taking action. He professed that leaders are only leading when they are doing. One of his favorite phrases was, “Ready, Fire, Aim.” He challenged scientists and engineers to push conventional boundaries.

Earl Bakken practiced lifelong learning and was curious about many fields. He subscribed to over 400 journals and would often forward articles to me that he thought I should read. His dedication to multidisciplinary learning, which persisted well into his later years, was awe-inspiring to everyone who knew Earl.

Earl Bakken encouraged people to give back to their communities and he was a role model for philanthropy. After retirement, he moved to Hawaii, where he was instrumental in building a hospital for an underserved region of the Big Island. Earl believed in the power of the Aloha spirit, and he actively supported the health and wellbeing of the Hawaiian people.

Earl Bakken will be remembered as an exceptional leader. I am blessed to have known him and hope to continue to live out his legacy of action, service, and mission. I hope that we can all do the same.

With respect,

Becky

 

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