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1997 Horatio Alger Award Winner

John F. Grundhofer

Chairman Emeritus
U.S. Bancorp

"There are no entitlements in life. You get rewarded for what you do."

Jack Grundhofer was born in Los Angeles in 1939. His father was a bartender and often worked two or three jobs at a time. His mother, a deeply religious Catholic, worked as a housekeeper. Education was important to his parents and they worked hard and made sacrifices so that their children could attend Catholic schools. A gifted student, Grundhofer was accepted to the academically demanding Loyola High School when he was 12. His commute included a one-hour ride on a streetcar. After school, he hurried back home to work as a stock boy in a department store. That year, his father suffered a massive heart attack and was out of work for eight months. Grundhofer worked extra hours so that his family would not lose their home.

He attended Loyola University on a baseball scholarship and mowed lawns for the school to help pay for his expenses. He earned a degree in economics and went to work for Union Bank as a credit analyst and trainee. To advance in the banking industry, he returned to school at night and earned his MBA in business administration with a concentration in finance from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles in 1964. When a new Union branch opened in Newport Beach, Grundhofer was sent to manage it. Within two years he had built it to $100 million in deposits.

For the next few years, Grundhofer was a regional manager in his day job and taught banking classes at night. In 1978, he joined Wells Fargo Bank as an executive vice president of the Southern California Retail Banking Group. He went on to head Wells Fargo's Commercial Banking Group within California, making him responsible for agricultural lending and trade finance. From 1986 to 1990, Grundhofer served as Wells Fargo's vice chairman, responsible for corporate banking, commercial banking, capital markets, loan adjustment, cash management, and wholesale information services.

In 1990, he joined First Bank System (FBS) in Minneapolis, a $10 billion bank, as chairman, president, and CEO. Under his guidance, FBS focused on delivering a comprehensive range of financial solutions to customers and creating value for shareholders. During his tenure, the company made more than 35 strategic acquisitions, including U. S. Bancorp in Portland, Oregon. From 1990 to until Grundhofer's retirement in 2002, the total return to shareholders was in excess of 1,000%.

While Grundhofer's career made steady progress toward success, he has had to face and overcome some terrifying experiences, including his own kidnapping at gunpoint. He was able to escape his captor, but it took time to come to terms with this event.


Throughout his career, Grundhofer has been involved with hundreds of philanthropic and civic organizations. A firm believer in being rewarded for performance, Grundhofer once said, "You create your own luck by working hard and working smart."