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BSU Business Alumni Leaders in Classrooms

Oct 3, 2012

As part of Bemidji State University Beaver Homecoming Week, several distinguished BSU alumni held discussions with current students wishing to follow suit. Discussion topics covered aspects of business and leadership. Panel discussions focused on how Bemidji State University`s business degree programs set them up for extraordinary success in life as leaders in business. All attributed much of it to small class sizes, excellent faculty and to a tight-knit faculty-student connect. The following bios note the impressive list of outstanding alumni returning to the classroom.

Becky Dawley has been First Vice President - Director of Information Services with Federated Mutual Insurance in Owatonna, Minn. since 2000. She joined Federated Insurance in 1977 as a computer programmer. She had held the positions of programmer, senior programmer, lead programmer, computer systems development supervisor, manager, director and vice president during her 20 year tenure with Federated Insurance. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Bemidji State University (Bemidji, MN) in 1977.

Shelly Geerdes has been employed with Pinnacle Publishing, LLC for nearly 18 years and has been the CEO/General Manager since October 2000. During the past 18 years Pinnacle has grown from publishing seven telephone directories to 252. Now, they offer expanded digital advertising options to their customers including local search and website building and hosting. Headquartered in Bemidji, Pinnacle currently does business in 35 states, serves nearly 160 telephone companies and employs more than 110 employees. Geerdes graduated from Bemidji State University in 1993. During her last year of college, she attended BSU`s sister school in Akita, Japan.

Xihao Hu came to BSU from Shanghai, China, to study accounting. He earned a perfect score on the Certified Public Accounting exam. Hu graduated summa cum laude in 1997. Hu interned at Deloitte & Touche LLP in Minneapolis before working there full-time in audit and enterprise risk services in 1997. He moved to a position in the company`s Chicago office in 2000, quickly working his way up within the company to become a partner/senior manager in the financial accounting and reporting services department by 2005, all by the young age of 31. At Deloitte & Touche, Hu managed a large staff, mentored partnered candidates, authored several publications and spoke at international and domestic industry events. In 2010, Hu was named senior vice president and chief accountant for the Toronto-Dominion Bank, the position he holds today.

Keith Johanneson attended Bemidji State University, and he has also studied at the University of Minnesota and The University of Oxford (Oxford, England). Keith has been serving communities within the retail grocery industry for over 50 years. He began his career as a clerk working at his family`s neighborhood supermarket. Following college, Johanneson worked as a Market Research Analyst for
SuperValu, Inc. based in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. In addition, he started his own beer distribution company in his native Bemidji, MN. Shortly thereafter, Keith relieved his father as President of Johanneson`s, Inc. where he continues to serve today as the organization`s CEO/President. Keith is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys traveling. He and his wife, Maria, live in Bemidji and have four grown children.

Bill Potvin, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from BSU in 1976, is partner in-charge of the Brainerd and Alexandria, Minn., offices of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. He currently serves the construction and real estate clients and has been with the company for 24 years. He focuses on general and specialty contractors, architectural and engineering firms, construction industry service and real estate development companies. He also counsels manufacturing, hospitality and dealerships. He has dealt with owner-operated, closely-held businesses that range from start-up companies to companies with multi-entities, locations and trades with revenues in excess of $100 million. He has significant experience with acquisition, mergers, and financing transactions. Potvin works with the tax, financial and business planning aspects of privately-owned companies and helps them develop long-range business objectives which may impact ownership transition and planning for corporate, personal and estate taxes. Potvin served for 14 years as an elected member of the firm`s Board of Directors, four years as chairman of the board, three years managing the firm wide tax practice. Potvin is a licensed CPA in Minnesota and Florida

Col. Gregg Rice (Ret.) `69 earned a B.A. in business management from BSU. He later earned a master`s degree in systems management from the University of Southern California and graduated from the Air Force Squadron Officer School, the U.S. Army Command & General Staff School and Australia`s Joint Services Staff College. Gregg served 23 years in the US Air Force as a fighter pilot, and following his retirement from the USAF he joined the commercial airline industry, flying more than 10,300 hours. He retired after 13 years as a Captain with Southwest Airlines. He received the BSU Outstanding Alumni Award in 2009. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Dave Ramsey `78, 1st Vice President, Director-Agency Operations directs Primary Source Insurance Agency operations at Federated Insurance, Weizenegger Engel Insurance in Brainerd, MN and in North Dakota, as well as Federated`s appointed agencies in the Western United States. A native of Minneapolis and graduate of Bemidji State University, Dave has almost 35 years of experience in the industry and is a 25-year member of the Society of Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters. Dave`s career at Federated began in 1978 and has comprised a number of areas over the years, including: commercial underwriting, marketing, administration, human resources and recruitment. Dave serves on the BSU Foundation Board`s Legacy Society and is past president of the BSU Alumni Association. He is active in many community groups including Rotary, United Way and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Dave lives in Owatonna, Minn.

Bill Hawkins `74 After graduating from BSU in 1974, Bill spent six years teaching high school English and coaching before deciding to focus his efforts on Hawkins Enterprises, Inc., a company he founded in 1978. Since then he has become one of the most sought-after sales and marketing consultants in the country and speaks to tens of thousands of people annually. He has authored a highly successful series of talks on electronic commerce and the future of the Internet, and also developed a business training series that has been translated into eleven languages. Bill serves on the Board of Directors of Worldwide Group, LLC and also the Independent Business Owners Association International, which is the largest small business trade organization in the world. He received the BSU Outstanding Alumni Award in 2011. He lives in Ramsey, Minn.