For millions of Americans, the name Winnebago is synonymous with recreational travel. For experts in the motorhome industry, Winnebago represents the highest product standards. For Wall Street investors, Winnebago is an important investment.
But it's perhaps most revealing that Winnebago's founder and chairman is known to employees, dealers and investors alike on a first-name basis, simply as "John K."
John K. Hanson, to be exact. Blunt, decisive and visionary, he founded Winnebago in 1958. Winnebago was an ideal product for post-war America, as people flocked to national highways and parks. Winnebago was the hottest stock of 1971 - up 462 percent. Then came a decade of oil crises and inflation. Winnebago responded with fuel-efficient, aerodynamic models, so advanced technology could serve changing times.
The same commitment to excellence has made John K. and Luise Hanson loyal and generous supporters of Mayo. Members of their family have been Mayo patients since the earliest days - John K. first came to Mayo as a young boy in 1919. "When I describe Mayo to people I say it's thorough, efficient and yet very personal" he explains.
Family tradition of philanthropy
Ms. Peterson majored in philosophy at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. Her father's career provided an extended residence in South America, and with this diverse background, she now owns a leather business in St. Thomas and another store in North Carolina. She travels frequently to Italy, South America and other locations for choice products. When she was interviewed for this article, she was en route to attend a lecture series of Nobel Prize laureates. "You could say one of my ideas for a great vacation is to hear a presentation on neuroscience," she jokes.
Ms. Peterson's late parents, G. Wallace and Dorothea Peterson, provided two scholarships at Mayo Medical School. Ms. Peterson has met many of the scholars and supports her parents' commitment to medical education. In addition, she charts her own course in philanthropy. Ms. Peterson provides leadership support for Mayo's research in multiple sclerosis.
"M.S. is a challenging disease of the central nervous system," says Dr. Moses Rodriguez, whose research is supported by Ms. Peterson. "The cause and cure remain unknown, but life expectancy has increased by a decade or more in recent years, thanks to improved treatments for the complications of the disorder." Ms. Peterson's support plays a vital role in expanding research to understand multiple sclerosis.
Cycle-Sat is the name of an innovative firm founded by Mr. Hanson. This high-technology business beams encrypted data to a satellite for distribution to radio and television stations throughout the United States.
"Some people tell me a man my age doesn't need to worry about what life will be like in the 21st century," says John K. "But I believe in technology, and what it can do to make people's lives better"
Touching the future
John K. and Luise Hanson have made many important gifts to their community; and in particular to Mr. Hanson's alma mater Waldorf College. Dr. William Hamm, president of Waldorf says, "John K. and Luise are loyal friends. Their interest and support touch all aspects of life at the college." Waldorf College awarded honorary doctorates to Mr. and Mrs. Hanson in April 1995.
John K. expresses his view of philanthropy in clear terms: "My goal has always been to run a successful company, to provide something of quality that people want and need, and to take care of the people who work with me. Supporting a worthy cause is a natural extension of those goals."
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