by Allison K. Schmitt, '07 M.A.
It seems Brad and Janet Anderson have a stereotypical "rags to riches" story. But it's how their lives depart from that stereotype for which they are awarded the 2007 David W. Preus Award in Leadership.
"In an era of rampant corporate greed, their generosity has been of an almost unparalleled magnitude," wrote Professor Rolf Jacobson in nominating them for the award, presented Oct. 23.
Since the Andersons' modest beginnings, their gifts have unfolded in remarkable ways. Brad is the son of a Lutheran pastor. As a young couple, the Andersons relocated to Minnesota so Brad could follow in his father's
footsteps at seminary. He dropped out of Northwestern Seminary (a predecessor institution of Luther Seminary) in less than a year, getting a job at a stereo store. He nearly quit, feeling he failed to find his calling as a salesman. But he turned his career around. Thirty years later, he is now CEO of that store, now called Best Buy.
"I didn't realize when I was in the seminary that I did have the ability to be a leader," he said. "I discovered it out of the experience of working here over the years...The unbelievable blessing was to discover that the ability was there."
Growing up in a small farming community in Illinois, Janet learned from her parents the importance of generosity as they gave their time and money to their church. It was natural for Janet and Brad to give of their wealth and talents to worthy causes too. Her philosophy is "Give until it feels good."
A retired public school social worker, Janet is currently a full-time volunteer. She is chair of the Luther Seminary Board of Trustees and has been president of Plymouth Christian Youth Center and Como Park Lutheran
Church, among other organizations. Brad has lent his leadership skills to Waldorf College, Minnesota Public Radio and the American Film Institute.
"Janet and Brad ...are a force for good," wrote David Tiede, Luther Seminary President Emeritus, in a letter supporting their nomination. "Their thoughtful collaboration as a couple and a family sets an intriguing and inspiring example for others. They clearly understand the biblical wisdom that much is required from those to whom much is entrusted."
The annual Preus Award is named after the Rev. Dr. David W. Preus, former bishop of the American Lutheran Church (now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), who received the first award in 1988. As part of the award, a cash gift is designated for a cause dear to the honoree.
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