1989 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Don't reach for the unachievable, but measure what you feel you can achieve based on the skills you have."
Born in 1915 in Iowa, Carl Pohlad was the third child in a family of eight. His father was a railroad brakeman who struggled to support his large family. As a boy, Pohlad helped his mother deliver laundry and clean the houses of Valley Junction's more affluent inhabitants. "My mother was exceptional," says Pohlad. "She never went to school, but she was very wise. She worked so hard, but she always had time to give us the love and guidance we needed."
In high school, Pohlad was hired to milk cows on a farm owned by a local banker. Soon he was enlisted to drive his employer on rounds to collect loan payments. Not long after that, he was making the collection rounds himself and doing odd jobs at the banker's office. Even though he found his new job interesting, Pohlad cared more about sports. He starred on the high school football team and began thinking about playing ball in college. He graduated in 1933, and was soon recruited to play for Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
Even with the help of a sports scholarship, Pohlad needed an income to support himself. He opened a used car business and put to use skills he learned during his Iowa banking days. His part-time business prospered and when the football season ended in his senior year, he left college and returned to Iowa.
He used his profits to buy into a fledgling finance company in Dubuque, where he stayed until he joined the Army during World War II. He served as an infantryman in France, Austria, and Germany, where he earned several awards and a battlefield commission. When he returned, his partner had purchased a Minneapolis-based holding company, Bank Shares, Inc., which owned three banks, including Marquette National. Pohlad went to Minneapolis, and when his partner died in 1955, he became president and CEO of Bank Shares and Marquette National. Since then, Pohlad has acquired several regional banks and has diversified into the soft drink industry under the Pepsi Cola brand. His banking activity now encompasses 12 states and includes United Properties, a real estate company. He is also the proud owner of the Minnesota Twins baseball team, which won the World Series in 1987 and 1991.
Pohlad says his advice for young people has not changed. "Work hard and look for opportunity in every life experience," he says. We live in a dynamic country where each individual is limited only by his or her personally defined horizon."* Deceased