St. Cloud State University alumni Per Rasmussen and Nina Skage of Norway were on hand on May 16 to announce the first endowed professional selling institute in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The announcement also marks the University’s first international $1 million gift.
The establishment of The Per Rasmussen ‘86 and Nina Skage ‘86 Professional Selling Institute is a distinctive component of the It’s Time leadership focus, and a driving factor in helping establish the Herberger Business School as a nationally recognized leader in business-to-business sales education. The gift accelerates and elevates St. Cloud State as a leader in Minnesota, the Midwest and across the nation in academic programming and scholarship.
Dr. Denny Bristow, a Herberger Business School professor, credited Rasmussen’s and Skage’s early financial and foundational support of the professional selling specialization program as critical components of the program’s success. He said the couple’s gift to endow the Professional Selling Institute is a “game changer,” as it will help the program take the next steps toward legitimacy in the academic and business world as well as regional and national recognition as a leading business-to-business sales program.
The Per Rasmussen ‘86 and Nina Skage ‘86 Professional Selling Institute will fund additional professional selling scholarships for students as well as externships and research for faculty, and will fund program events such as sales competitions and keynote speaker events. The endowment will attract and retain top faculty in the professional selling arena, in addition to recruiting students to the selling program. It will also provide state-of-the-art learning facilities and technology for students across the University campus, regardless of major. That technology will also enable the University to work with professional sales specialization strategic partners in the business community to develop sales training opportunities for professionals across the region.
“Now and into the future, the Herberger Business School and The Per Rasmussen ’86 and Nina Skage ’86 Professional Selling Institute will lead the way in business-to-business sales education,” Bristow said.
“The generosity of this gift to St. Cloud State is something special and different,” said Lynne Warne ’85, President of the St. Cloud State Foundation Board and a friend of the couple. “It speaks to the commitment they have to student success — and their desire to give back to the university that helped form their business acumen.”
The endowment for The Professional Selling Institute will enhance opportunities for St. Cloud State to provide the hands-on, experiential learning environment that prepares lifelong learners and successful professionals in the highly competitive business and sales field.
“The Professional Selling Institute is an excellent example of a St. Cloud State program that prepares top-notch, hit-the-ground-running professionals who have the skills and confidence to communicate, connect and close in real-world sales opportunities,” said Dr. Robbyn Wacker, President of St. Cloud State. “As a university we are gaining a well-deserved reputation for graduating professionals with the credentials for virtually guaranteed placement in their field, including sales.”
Both Rasmussen and Skage said the University gave them theoretical as well as practical experience — through the papers, presentations, speeches and participation required of students. Having actual sales experience when they graduate helps students become desired job candidates in an ever-competitive field, they said.
“As someone who has a business,” Rasmussen said, “I think it’s fantastic when employees already have sales experience when they start their careers.”
“Being a good sales person is a talent,” Skage added.
The couple said it was St. Cloud State’s reputation as well as their own experiences at the University that makes them continued supporters of their alma mater.
“We’ve had very good careers since moving home to Norway,” Skage said. “When you grow older you think, ‘Why did this happen?’ And then you can transfer some of the learning you got at St. Cloud State that has paid off.”
“What we learned at St. Cloud State, when we came home, we were more competitive thanks to what we had learned,” Rasmussen said. “And we went through 30 years ago, and students today get an even better education than we did. … There’s always been progress.”
“The impact of your gift will be felt for generations, as students enjoy a truly transformational experience at St. Cloud State and the Herberger Business School as a result of what your gift has created,” said Matt Andrew, Vice President of University Advancement.
The couple’s gift to the University arrives during the St. Cloud State Foundation’s “Unleash the Future” campaign, which to date has raised $37 million — 15 percent more than its initial goal. For more about the campaign, visit unleashthefuture.stcloudstate.edu.