Win Wallin, former chair of the Carleton Board of Trustees and a widely-respected Minnesota philanthropist and businessman, moved on from this life, last Dec. 20 at the age of 84.
Wallin was a Carleton Trustee from 1983-2001 and served as Chair of the Board from 1991-99. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree upon stepping down from his position as chair.
Outside of Carleton, Wallin also made a major impact on Minnesota. A recent Star Tribune article credited Wallin’s tenure as leader of Medtronic for jumpstarting medical devices employment in Minnesota, an industry that has been recognized by the New York Times as one of the few substantial job creators in the nation during the economic downturn. As CEO and Chairman of Medtronic from 1985-91, he led the company through its spectactular rise in the late 1980’s when its heart defibrillators became a widespread way of prolonging life.
“Win was a profoundly important figure, not only in corporate and civic circles in the Twin cities, but also in shaping the caliber of higher education in our state,” said President Steven G. Poskanzer in a press release. “I am particularly grateful that he was kind enough to share with me wise insights about how to insure the College’s continuing excellence.”
When he retired as Medtronic CEO in 1991 a much wealthier man than he had been six years before, he founded Wallin Education Partners. The organization gives advice and financial aid to high-achieving, low income public high school students in the Twin Cities area. So far, Wallin Scholars has given 3,000 scholarships, totaling around $26 million.
During his time as a trustee, Carleton raised $158.5 million in what was then the largest fundraising campaign in the College’s history. His family also established the Maxine H. and Winston R. Wallin Professorship in Interdisciplinary Studies.
Winston R.”Win” Wallin was born in 1926. He graduated from Minneapolis South High School in 1943, served in the U.S. Navy Air Corps during World War II and then enrolled in the business administration program at the University of Minnesota. In 1948, he started at Pillsbury as a trainee in the grain department. For the next 29 years, he rose through the company, becoming Pillsbury’s president and chief operating officer in 1977.
In 1985, Wallin left Pillsbury for Medtronic, despite having little experience in the medical field. His forceful but charismatic leadership allowed the company to diversify within the medical devices market and increase revenue by $1 billion. After retiring from Medtronic, he worked for both Carleton and his alma mater. While being a Carleton trustee, he led the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center and helped raise $35 million in private donations to build the university’s cancer research center. In honor of his generosity, the University of Minnesota named its medical biosciences building after Wallin and his wife, Maxine last June.
Wallin cast a large figure in ways beyond his business and fundraising skills. He was 6 foot 4 with a warm personality that made him seem even bigger.
“He was definitely good at leading people but what really set him apart was his humor,” said grandson Pierre Wallin ’12. “He realized that lightening the mood was key to reaching a decision without making people feel slighted. He had a retort for pretty much anything we would say to him and people who met him always told me he was the funniest man they'd ever met.“
Wallin is survived by his wife, Maxine, and his four children, three of which attended Carleton.