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News

Leipolds pledge $1 million to expand graduate track in sports management

October 26, 2020

Longtime NHL team owner Craig Leipold and his wife, global business executive Helen Johnson-Leipold, have pledged $1 million to help Carthage become a regional leader in advanced preparation for sports management careers.

The large gift primarily enables Carthage to fortify its graduate specialization in sports management, the newest option available to students pursuing a Master of Science degree in business. The master’s track welcomed its first cohort this fall.

Minnesota Wild owner and Carthage parent Craig Leipold spoke at the Spotlight on Sports event in ...Minnesota Wild owner and Carthage parent Craig Leipold spoke at the Spotlight on Sports event in November 2019.These funds will allow Carthage to hire top faculty and guest lecturers, award scholarships to promising students, establish industry partnerships, augment experiential learning opportunities, and develop distinctive programming.

“The business side of sports continues to grow, and we believe Carthage can quickly emerge as a top destination for students who want to rise above the pack,” said Mr. Leipold, majority owner of the Minnesota Wild. “The building blocks are all there — the location, the facilities, the passionate students, and especially the faculty commitment to meet true workforce needs.”

Teaching management through the lens of sports, the new graduate track at Carthage consists of specialized courses tailored to the industry and core courses that emphasize emotional intelligence, disruptive innovation, and cross-functional team management. Like the original business design and innovation (BDI) track, it can be completed in 10 months.

The seven-figure gift also empowers the College to expand its undergraduate offerings at the intersection of business and competitive athletics, two traditionally popular aspects of a Carthage education. Management is the second-most pursued major on campus, and more than one-fourth of Carthage students compete in 27 NCAA Division III sports.

“We’re incredibly grateful that Craig and Helen share our vision for this new academic venture,” said Thomas Kline, Carthage’s vice president for institutional advancement. “Our students will benefit greatly from their philanthropy, as well as their remarkable business acumen.”

After a variety of successful business ventures, Mr. Leipold made his first foray into the NHL in 1997 when he bought the expansion Nashville Predators. He later sold that team and purchased the Wild in 2008. Ms. Johnson-Leipold is chairman and CEO of Johnson Outdoors and chairman of Johnson Financial Group, both based in Racine, Wisconsin.

Extensive input from nearly two dozen professional sports executives helped Carthage to design a master’s curriculum that closely aligns with today’s hiring preferences. To ensure that continues, the college is forming an advisory committee of senior leaders.

“Partnerships with industry leaders like Craig Leipold enable Carthage’s academic programs to offer the finest expertise and experience available anywhere,” said President John R. Swallow. “No institution will be better positioned than Carthage College to help management students skate to where the puck is going.”

Carthage stands ready to further diversify its experiential learning options, as well. Professor Greg Barron, director of the MSc program, and Professor Jennifer Madden are scheduled to lead the graduate business cohort to Barcelona for an intensive capstone experience.

In January, Leipold arranged a full week of meetings and job shadowing for undergraduate students at Wild headquarters during the first Introduction to Sports Management study tour. Prof. Barron and Mr. Kline tentatively plan to teach a course in Tokyo next year during the rescheduled Summer Olympics.

Carthage will also use a portion of the new funding to bring in prominent guests for its Chapman Executive-in-Residence program and Spotlight on Sports forum. The latter series kicked off last November, with public talks by special guests such as Milwaukee Bucks president Peter Feigin, former Chicago Blackhawks president and CEO John F. McDonough, and Leipold.

“Craig’s leadership and expertise have been essential in developing Carthage’s sports management initiatives,” said Prof. Barron, who also serves as president of Racine County Economic Development Corp. ”Now, thanks to this generous gift, our program can enlighten the wider community while fully preparing students for meaningful and successful careers.”

 A competitive edge