On Business and Boardrooms | Meet the Board: Chairman David Deno’79

Photo+courtesy+of+David+Deno.

Photo courtesy of David Deno.

Photo courtesy of David Deno.
Photo courtesy of David Deno.

This week, Student Liaison to the Board of Trustees Lisa Hu ’15 sat down with David Deno ’79, Chair of the Board.

Let’s start somewhere straightforward. What did you study at Macalester? Any standout professors you still remember?

So I was a student at Macalester from 1975 to 1979. I am originally from New Hope, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. I did not know what I was going to study initially, but I had some really good professors, most notably Chuck Green and Karl Egge — one of the best professors on campus. [Largely because of them] I became a double major in Economics and Political Science.

For all the seniors out there, can you say more about your decision to work before going to graduate school?

After I graduated, I worked for Target Corporation’s corporate finance group in downtown Minneapolis. [Working before graduate school] was very common at the time, and I think it is common again today. It may not be the exact perfect job that you want — but you get experiences and you know a bit more what you want to do [if] you do go off to graduate school. It’s okay to experiment and have some hits and misses.

What graduate program did you attend?

I got my MBA from the University of Michigan. Then I joined the Pillsbury Company and at that time, [the food industry] was diversifying into the restaurant industry. Eating away from home was really taking off. I knew I wanted to join a growth industry — an industry with vibrancy [that was actively] expanding. I was able to grow with the business as it grew; I have been in the restaurant business pretty much all my career.

Now I work for Bloomin’ Brands [as Executive VP and CFO], which owns a bunch of national brands — [including] Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish [Grill] in St. Louis Park, Fleming’s — more of a high end steakhouse, and Carrabba’s [Italian Grill].

So I hear that an integral part of business is relational. Can you offer thoughts on how to foster these relationships, professionally or personally?

I mean, [building relationships in business] is no different than building relationships on campus, honestly. You just start. You build those relationships by doing the job you’re supposed to do, by being a good person, by letting people trust you – and you will build an enormous assortment of relationships that way. Folks honestly get a great education [in doing this] at Macalester.

Can you talk about your relationship with the school as a Trustee? Your willingness to travel so far so consistently, do close reads and revisions of documents, sit in meetings; it’s a large investment of time and energy. What are some of the reasons you contribute?

Well, it’s important when you have success to remember who got you there and how you got there. And the people at Macalester were a huge part of that for me. You can’t ever forget that. You’re not born to be a CFO: you have to train [and] be supported.

I have been a Trustee since 1998. It’s now my 16th year on the Board and my seventh year as Board Chair. I invest a lot of time on campus, primarily because of the [valuable] time I spent as a student. Macalester back then had the same foundation: we are no different than you, just older. We have been gone now [for a while] but people on the Board realize how important this school was to them.

Are there parts of your time at Macalester that impact your work today?

You are honestly fortunate enough to attend one of the best schools in the country. So you have a big head start in the work life because the academics prepare you fantastically. Secondly, the world is a global place — Macalester has been committed to that idea for about 75 years, long been a leader in internationalism and global education – and therefore [Mac students] are much more acclimated to a global work environment.

You’re talking about internationalism, which is still integral to the school today. As someone who has been off-campus for a while, how do you understand terms like ‘global citizenship’ and ‘civic engagement’ today?

We did not have an Institute for Global Citizenship when I was [at Macalester], but the essence, the feeling, the framework was already there. [Global citizenship] was just a part of your life – from your classes to your classmates to your professors — so when you’re in the workplace, you are much more prepared. I was very successful and comfortable with meeting others from other cultures and other countries — all because of my time at Macalester.

I didn’t have an international roommate, but the people that I played soccer with and the people I studied with [were from] all corners of the world. They helped me understand what the big world looks like. I never got to travel much; I never had that experience. But because Macalester is a national school and an international school, [my time at Macalester] was a big part of opening my eyes. And that is something I so admire, this view of the world that I had never seen before.

Any concluding thoughts that you want the Macalester community to know?

Well, I think that the Trustees seem like this serious group – but we are Macalester students first and foremost. We have the same purpose, same values, same traditions — that’s why we keep coming back to campus so much. The academic training, the chance to meet all these great people and faculty, the chance to get involved in athletics — [my time at] Macalester really meant a lot to me as a person.