Foundation Board Member Feature: Rick Thoreson

Richard D. (Rick) Thoreson is a partner at Thoreson Steffes Trust Company in Fargo, N.D. He received his B.S. in Business Administration (economics minor) in 1981. He is now in the final year of a six-year term on the MSUM Foundation Board.

Rick's serves on the Nominating and Governance Committee and provides assistance to the Finance and Investment Committee regarding the investment of Foundation funds.

When did you first become connected to MSUM? 

I graduated from Shanley High School in 1977 and wasn’t sure what I’d do for college.  I toured many campuses, but I decided on Moorhead State University because the School of Business had an excellent reputation and it was affordable. Living at home and working 24 hours per week during the school year allowed me to fund my education.

What unique experience, skill or perspective do you bring to the Foundation Board?

The decision to become a CFA accelerated my investment management career and gave me greater opportunities at U.S. Bank than I could have expected.  I left U.S. Bank to start a private trust company after 25 years in wealth management. I think the experience of working with both institutional investors and affluent and wealthy clients gave me a different perspective of philanthropy and “feeding your roots” than I would have had without that experience.

Do you have any previous/additional connection(s) to MSUM?

I should confess that another reason I stayed close to home for college was a young lady who was also a Dragon; Early Childhood/Special Education.  We were married a year after I graduated while she was still an undergrad.  She went on to receive her master’s at MSUM.  She’s stuck with me (must be that “grit” Dragons brag about) for four kids and almost 40 years.

What’s one thing that surprised you about MSUM?

The Paseka School of Business was a pleasant surprise.  It’s a beautiful, well-designed addition to campus.  The most surprising thing about the Foundation was the incredible quality of the people on the Foundation team and the incredible Board members who give their time, talent and treasure to benefit MSUM and their community.

What energizes you in your role serving on the Foundation Board?

I especially enjoyed helping the Nominating and Governance Committee and Foundation staff select the Outstanding Alumni for recognition, the recognition of recent grads who have distinguished themselves in a short period away from campus and the service award winners (they are winners in every respect), and providing some guidance to the Finance and Investment Committee in raising our game with respect to the investment of funds donors have entrusted to our stewardship.

Who at MSUM inspires you?

Nonda Mack on the Foundation staff.  She has such a great wit and sense of humor that makes serving on the Board very enjoyable. She may have “off” days, but I’ve never seen one.

What experiences at MSUM have influenced your life the most? Which have helped you succeed?

There was a political science professor I had as a sophomore who taught International Relations.  He was originally from Tehran and I think his father had been in the diplomatic corps during World War II.  He gave absolutely fascinating lectures, gave one-question mid-term and final essay exams and held class on the grass outdoors once in a while.  He had a worldview that was so different for a kid who grew up in the upper Midwest and he challenged students to think outside their backyard.  I think having a global view and open mind has made me a much better investor.

How do you hope to support MSUM and/or students with your philanthropic involvement? What good do you hope will come from it?

We’ve started an endowment fund for the Education department.  As a couple, we chose Education over Business for a simple reason.  Graduates in education are there because they have a passion for knowledge and teaching rather than financial.  We want to do what we can to support their mission.

What’s one thing you’re learning now, and why is it important?

I am learning to fish.  I have a son who is passionate about fishing and a grandson who is not yet three.  I would sit in a boat for hours with those two even if the fish weren’t biting.

What’s the most interesting project you’re working on right now?

A graceful retirement.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I love old movies, especially Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart films.  The scene from Casablanca where Paul Henreid leads the café in singing Les Marseillais is my favorite movie scene of all time.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

Success is defined by the depth of your relationships with other people, not your net worth.  My four children taught me that.  I aspire to be more like them every day.  (Credit to their mother for that lesson.)

What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of?

Definitely personal, but not something for which I can take much credit.  My oldest son Ryan graduated from Harvard, received his Ph.D. at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and a Yale law degree.  He is currently at Human Rights Watch focused on the rights of LBGTQ youth and I am so extraordinarily proud of the impact I hope he is able to have on our culture regarding our human rights.  (By the way, he’s seeking teaching post at a law school if anyone has any connections.)

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