S.9, E.6: “Of Those Who Have a Lot, a Lot Is Expected”

Learning for Life @ Gustavus host Greg Kaster interviews Gustavus alumnus and founder of Infinity Wealth Alliance Luther Hagen '88.
Posted on May 11th, 2021 by

Luther Hagen ’88, founder of Infinity Wealth Alliance in Apple Valley, Minn., on why Gustavus and the business major, his experiences (both academic and amusing) there, his career in the financial services industry as first an employee and then an owner, and giving back to his alma mater. 

Season 9, Episode 6: “Of Those Who Have a Lot, a Lot Is Expected”

Greg Kaster:

Hello and welcome to Learning for Life at Gustavus, the podcast about people teaching and learning at Gustavus Adolphus College. In a myriad ways, the Gustavus liberal arts education provides a lasting foundation for lives of fulfillment and purpose. I’m your host, Greg Kaster, faculty member in the Department of History.

One of Gustavus’s biggest assets is its alumni. Observe my guest today Luther Hagen class of 88. With an estimated 80% of today’s jobs coming through networking it’s never been more important to be connected. To facilitate such connections Luther and his wife Libby have played key roles in helping Gustavus develop its excellent mentoring program as part of their generous and regular giving to the college. In addition Luther mentors Gustavus students drawing on his own 30 plus years of experience and connections in the financial services industry including as owner of Affinity Wealth Alliance in Apple Valley Minnesota. Philanthropy, giving is essential to the functioning and vitality of Gustavus both in the present and longer term and never more so than in the present historical moment of great financial stress for families, students, and higher ed institutions alike. That reality and the fact that Gustavus is now engaged in its Show the World Capital campaign made me especially eager to speak with Luther about his and Libby’s understanding of and commitment to philanthropy and it’s my pleasure to welcome him to the podcast. So Luther it’s great to have you on thanks for making the time.

Luther Hagen:

Great Greg I’m glad to be here it’s an honor to speak with you and address some of the other Gustavus community.

Greg Kaster:

Really appreciate it. My wife Kate, well she was in the history department also, we came in 86 I don’t remember if you and I ever crossed paths but if not it’s great to meet you this way. You were certainly there when we were there as new faculty members. What’s it like right now for you and your team at Infinity Wealth? Are you all working remotely at this point?

Luther Hagen:

Well so what I’d tell you Greg is back when the pandemic was really heating up back in march last year Libby and I were actually in Hawaii on vacation and things are getting really crazy, even had a couple clients that were calling and things were getting pretty exciting so our eight day vacation in Hawaii turned into a three day vacation we came home early. We were in crisis management mode as a lot of businesses were during the pandemic and for March and April last year we actually were working from home and there’s myself and three support team members on my team. So our technology worked beautifully with Zoom we were able to do video conferencing with our team and with our clients and prospective clients so we really didn’t miss a beat it worked out really well. But after two months well were kind of getting anxious to get back to the office so back in May last year we moved back to the office. At that point all of our meetings with clients and prospective clients were still on Zoom and it wasn’t until July last summer where we invited clients into the office at their choice either in office meeting or on Zoom and we’ve been doing really well.

We’ve been offering those options either in office or Zoom meetings all the way through until now actually a little bit before thanksgiving and a little bit before Christmas we closed the in office meetings just because of upcoming travel to see relatives in Wisconsin but other than that business has been great for us. We had another best year ever last year I think that was the sixth year in a row our[crosstalk 00:04:03] Line revenue was up about 12% and we took on more new clients last year than we did in a couple of years combined so things are going really well here at Infinity Wealth Alliance, we have happy clients, happy team members, our culture is at a 10 right now and as a small business owner and any business for that matter culture is everything.

Greg Kaster:

No kidding. That’s another example of how… There’s lots of doom and gloom one hears and reads about cities and offices but that’s too simple because I’ve talked to other people in the business world who have similar experiences to yours and it reminds me a bit too of Gustavus where at least faculty are offered the choice of whether to teach in person or not and some are, some aren’t and we’re getting through it. We’re doing well. That’s all good news, that’s exciting. I’m sorry about the Hawaii part that’s not so great, can’t have everything. So you mentioned Wisconsin, is that where you grew up?

Luther Hagen:

Yeah i grew up in Stevens Point Wisconsin which is Central Wisconsin. My twin brother and I were looking at schools, my parents had a dictatorship so they dictated the schools that we looked at. They wanted us to go to private Lutheran and liberal arts schools so we looked at Gustavus, we looked at a Lutheran school in Northfield, we looked at a Lutheran school down into Decora, and we looked at another Lutheran school in Waverly Iowa. So we both picked Gustavus and then my twin brother defected and moved to St Olaf after J term sophomore year. So-

Greg Kaster:

[inaudible 00:05:50] We’ll forgive him.

Luther Hagen:

Yeah we get along really well actually and my sister is a Luther grad so we’ve kind of covered the bases.

Greg Kaster:

Oh you get the bases. So that’s an interesting story where your parents… Had they gone to such a school themselves?

Luther Hagen:

No they went to public college in Wisconsin but growing up in a ELCA Lutheran household and so on they just thought that, that would be the best environment for us and I didn’t really have any qualms about it and I really had a great experience at Gustavus, in fact I encouraged my two daughters to look at going at Gustavus. We took them to Gustavus Christmas in Christ chapel many years and I threatened that the college education money was going to go to Gustavus but in the end they both went to other private colleges. My younger daughter graduated from St Kitts and my older daughter graduated from Butler in Indianapolis.

Greg Kaster:

[inaudible 00:06:47] What was it about Gustavus? Do you remember? Were you able to visit it or was it just sort of, “That’s where I’m going to go.”

Luther Hagen:

Yeah we did on campus visits with really all four colleges and Gustavus just felt like the right fit to me and the personality and the people and the campus and so on it felt like home and it was pretty easy decision for me I ruled the other three out pretty quickly.

Greg Kaster:

Oh that’s great. So let’s see you graduated in 88 so you came in what? 84 right? You were probably a sophomore when i arrived. You didn’t take any history courses did you?

Luther Hagen:

No i didn’t. I was a business major and a minor in communications and then I had some of the other fun classes on campus to like calculus freshman year.

Greg Kaster:

So you were a business major with, I guess, an emphasis in organizational management. Did you know going in if that’s what you wanted to do?

Luther Hagen:

I knew from day one Greg that I want to be a business major and I really didn’t waver. I will tell you that the calculus first semester freshman year was not my favorite class and I haven’t used calculus to this day if you’re curious. Business is what I’ve been after since I landed on campus and I’ve had some great experiences with January term junior and senior year I did some great J terms which really led me into this industry.

Greg Kaster:

Was what you do in internships or something?

Luther Hagen:

yeah January internships junior year was with Lutheran brotherhood and senior year was with dean Witter.

Greg Kaster:

oh yeah-

Luther Hagen:

Yeah so it helped me make the decision to come into the financial service industry right out of college in 1988.

Greg Kaster:

Yeah those internships are so valuable still you know you’ve worked with interns. Was business in the family? Were your parents business people? My dad was a hairdresser and my mom but they often owned their own salon so a small business person.

Luther Hagen:

yeah my dad was with Lutheran brotherhood for 34 years so I kind of grew up with that and I was with them right out of college for 14 years and then when I left them 19 years ago they were thriving because they had merged with another company right and so 19 years ago I started my own company Infinity Wealth Alliance after 14 years in the industry. It was actually a pretty smooth transition Greg and really i just changed the name on the door and it was business as usual and I made the transition from being a W2 employee of thriving to being a business owner and owning my own book of business and pulling all the shots so it was a great transition and my wife was a big cheerleader in making that transition which was helpful because a lot of times when people move out of being an employee to being a small business owner they can have resistance from a spouse but thankfully my wife has been one of my biggest fans and next month we celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary.

Greg Kaster:

Happy anniversary. Did Libby go to Gustavus also? I meant to ask earlier.

Luther Hagen:

She went to a U.W La Crosse but she grew up in Central Wisconsin as well. She grew up in Wisconsin Rapids which was a rival high school to Stevens Point where I grew up. In fact her parents my parents probably live about 25 minutes apart so that worked out pretty well for holidays and our parents all get along well and they’re in their late 70s and early 80s and thankfully all four of them are alive and we get to see them regularly.

Greg Kaster:

Yeah that’s nice, that’s great. Even though you knew what you wanted to do and it was kind of a straight path that isn’t always the case sometimes it’s the case that was true of me with history, i was a history major and then straight into graduate school now professor but were there things or are there things about or are still things about your Gustavus experience in the classroom and even out of the classroom that informed the work you did straight out of the service and maybe still inform it?

Luther Hagen:

well what I would say Greg is i had some great business classes there. Bruce Johnson taught marketing and that was probably one of the best classes and most applicable to what I’m doing today. I know Ellis Jones taught a Business Ethics class in business law and some of those good things so [inaudible 00:11:37] Some great business classes at Gustavus. I think the January term internships were really instrumental in me coming into the industry. But also when I was a senior I went to the job fair at the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul and I had interviewed with a company Carnation. It was to be a sales position and I was talking with the interviewer about the job and got toward the end of the interview and I said, “Hey if I sell twice as much as charlie does do I make twice as much?” And he said, “Well no you get paid a salary.” And I said, “Well that’s great.” And right there I knew that, that wasn’t  where I wanted to go because I wanted to be paid on results.

Greg Kaster:

Right.

Luther Hagen:

So some people security is their most important thing but for me opportunity and pay based on results is how i wanted to start my career.

Greg Kaster:

Just reading about you preparing for our conversation you’re an entrepreneur I would say I don’t know if you characterize yourself that way but you have those entrepreneurial qualities. One of which is to not just be content to be salaried and settled as I’ve been at Gustavus for 37 years. My dad was the same way, both my parents. They opened salons, closed them, opened new ones there’s that entrepreneurial spirit which I’m a fan of. What are some of the other experiences you remember, jog your memory here about Gustavus the good bad and the ugly if you like but you mentioned Bruce and by the way Bruce Johnson and Kate we came to Gustavus the same year my wife Kate and I, and then at some point, I don’t remember how many, wasn’t that long after we had started that Bruce Johnson Roger [inaudible 00:13:34] and Scandinavian studies now Bruce is retired too, Roger and Bruce. And Kate and I, we all were part of a short lived Gustavus semester abroad program and Bruce was stationed in Brussels, Roger McKnight in [inaudible 00:13:46] Sweden and Kate and I were in London and Leeds and the students rotated from site to site every four months and this was pre cell phone, pre credit card it was really amazing what we did but it was a lot of fun.

So we became closer to Bruce and his family and he was part of the geezer group the other day too that I was telling you about it was fun to see him. But in any case what are some of the other experiences? I saw that you mentioned you would either be in the library or Lund center for example now you’re part of the greek life on campus do you have any particular memory-

Luther Hagen:

Yeah I have a couple of great memories there well I was in co-ed football and we really had a great core group of friends at Gustavus and I did get one T-shirt there so if you want a championship i guess Davis intramural code football you got some bragging rights I guess so that was fun. Certainly the file for fraternity and the greek system was a great way to make relationships and learn a lot of interesting things I’ll leave it at that but anyways… And I had a work study job so I was a lifeguard and I worked in the weight room as a supervisor. So I spent a lot of time at Lund center and I had one roommate and co-ed freshmen sophomore year, and then a different roommate, junior senior year in Eula and our routine was we’d finish our classes, we’d study for a little while, then we’d go over to Lund center, and then come home or back to the dorm and we’d have a little snack.

One of the things we did was we would eat sardines as a form of protein, and graham crackers, which was really odd. But then one of our neighbors next door, we would sneak the empty sardine can behind their couch and it really left a really special odor in their room. That was one of the things that we did which was fun, but harmless.

Greg Kaster:

It’s so funny you mentioned sardines, which I happen to love and my wife Kate and I. Well, I shouldn’t say I it’s really my wife Kate. She made some the other night from coastal sequence up here in Minneapolis and God, they were good. They’re good for you, you were doing early health food-

Luther Hagen:

Exactly. Yeah.

Greg Kaster:

The graham cracker too. This is the historian in me now going off. The graham cracker was invented by Sylvester Graham in the 19th century as part of dietary reform and one idea was that its blandness would help, I don’t know, keep the libido tamp down. That’s a funny story. I can still smell the sardines from the other night. Do you have any memories of courses outside of the econ management department that stand out?

Luther Hagen:

I had some speech classes as a part of communication, which were good. I had a J term, sophomore year where, I think it was a botany class on campus J term. That was interesting. So freshman year, I had Bible, one of those classes. That was interesting. The liberal arts gives you a pretty good assortment of different topic areas.

Greg Kaster:

Right.

Luther Hagen:

And I think one of the benefits of the liberal arts is it makes you well rounded and able to adapt and pivot in times like we’re in right now. So I think I’ve been good at adapting as things have changed throughout my 32 year career in the financial service industry, whether it’s technology, or building a team, serving our clients, adding value, educating clients, etc. So, the liberal arts was a good place for me and I knew that I wanted to be in business. So I would walk away from Gustavus and say, “Hey, that was a great decision for me.”

Greg Kaster:

Yes, of course, [inaudible 00:17:52] Making you smile here. I love the liberal arts. I didn’t attend a small liberal arts college, I went to Northern Illinois University, and then Boston University. My wife went to Bard College in New York State, small liberal arts college. But yeah, everything you’ve just said, I just know from my own experience talking with people like you of all different ages and people who didn’t go to Chris Davis but are in the business world and got a fantastic liberal arts education. Man what a treasure that is, what a resource that is for them. To this day people in their 50s and 60s and even 70s, in some cases, still drawing on their liberal arts education in what they do in the for profit world. So you mentioned you basically went into was it Lutheran brotherhood straight out of Gustavus? Is that what you said?

Luther Hagen:

Yeah, I did. I graduated in May of 1988 and went right into the industry, started my career at Lutheran brotherhood, I left after 14 years when I had transitioned to Thriving Financial and that’s when I started my own company Infinity Wealth Alliance.

Greg Kaster:

Now, I try to imagine what it’s like to say, I’m going to start my own company. Was it scary, exciting, a bit of both, or none of that?

Luther Hagen:

I think the whole thing of being an employee and changing to being a business owner, where you actually own your book of business, that, for me, was one of the biggest reasons to leave and also being able to work with the whole population and moving away from proprietary solutions.

Greg Kaster:

Right.

Luther Hagen:

Being out independent we could offer the whole candy store not just the Snickers bar and the piece of… The gum whatever.

Greg Kaster:

Right. I love the name it’s Infinity who doesn’t want an alliance. I’m curious, is there an origin story to the name?

Luther Hagen:

Well, it’s interesting, Greg, but anytime you start a company, you certainly have to start picking a name that tells what you do and how you can serve, but also one that’s not already taken. So I probably came up with five other company names, but they were already taken. So you have to piece it together and find something that works, and then build a website and build a brand, and so on, and then build your network and all those kinds of things and know what your value proposition is. So that’s the journey that we went through starting our company 19 years ago.

Greg Kaster:

You picked a good name, I think, first of all there’s a nice rhythm to it, rolls off the tongue and just those words, they’re all… Right? who wouldn’t want Infinity at least if it comes to [inaudible 00:20:41] I guess, Wealth Alliance and the other thing that struck me as I looked at the the firm’s website is that, I don’t know how conscious you were of this reflects your your liberal arts background, but you… I think it’s maybe on the first thing I saw, there’s that phrase, which has a long history in American history, Indian, European Anglo history as well. My dad used to tell it to me all the time, even though he didn’t go to college, but knowledge is power you have that phrase there, and you have is one of your values, which I don’t know that I’ve ever seen in a business before, education. That’s the word. How deliberate was all of that?

Luther Hagen:

I think Greg with us, we realize that we’re in an industry, where a lot of people want help and it’s not something that they really do for fun and so most people don’t have the time, the interest and the knowledge. And that’s why they hire us to help them with their wealth management and financial planning and education is one of our five core values that we have on our wall and on our website. Honesty, integrity, trustworthy, objective, and education. So we say that we really want to have all our clients, both husband and wife know what time it is and some clients want to know how to build the clock, every last detail down to the nickel.

Greg Kaster:

So true.

Luther Hagen:

But most people really want to know that they’re doing the right things. They’re on the right track, and they’re going to meet their goals.

Greg Kaster:

Right. Yeah, again, in my own experience I think that’s that’s so true. I’m someone who does not want to build the clock. But I want to know that whoever’s running it knows what they’re doing as you certainly do. I guess you’re the owner right? Is that right to call you owner?

Luther Hagen:

I’m the owner and founder of Infinity Wealth Alliance.

Greg Kaster:

Yeah. So tell us a little bit about your role in the firm, what you do as the owner and what your responsibilities are.

Luther Hagen:

So what I’ll say Greg is, I’m an analogy guy, you’re probably picking up on that. So I’m the race car driver, and I got three people in the pit crew. So I’m the person who primarily works with clients and the prospective clients in building the financial plan and managing assets, and helping them set goals and educating them along the way so that they can make good decisions and I always say, and some of my best friends will say, “Well, that’s another Lutheranism.” Well, I have a lot of Lutherisms and some of my buddies say, “Was that from chapter six?” So they say you should write a book. Well, life is a team sport is probably my most common Lutheranism and I always say that the windshield is bigger than the rear view mirror and some people can dwell on the past but we got to look to the future and I try and associate with people who are tiggers, and stay away from the people who are ears and you know what I mean by that and so, ultimately, I think, for me, it’s about relationships and providing value to our clients and our team. Like I said, we have a culture that’s at a 10 right now. Everybody gets along well, everybody works well together and everybody respects everybody on the team.

Greg Kaster:

What is it you look for? Let’s imagine you’re looking to hire someone, what are the qualities you’re looking for? And to what extent are you looking for a particular major?

Luther Hagen:

Yep. I think rapport, and fit are some really big things. I think work ethic and leadership and loyalty. Beth has been with me for 21 years. She’s my office manager and my key person and I had one of my clients give me a compliment regarding Beth today and so I think somebody who works hard and is dedicated and loyal, and wants to learn and grow, those are all attributes and Somebody who’s honest and has integrity.

Greg Kaster:

Wow again I’m smiling. Learn and grow and all that other good stuff yeah, learn and grow. I can imagine if you’re looking to hire someone you might need someone with a background in finance let’s say but still that’s not enough. I’m sure that our students and sometimes parents say they think you know that the major determines everything and that’s not the case always, far from it, and what I tell my students, “If you want to be an airline pilot you can do that with any major at Gustavus you’re going to need some extra training for sure but…” I like that emphasis on all the other qualities you said too but especially on the willingness to learn and grow. One of the things I noticed too is you do this, I don’t know if you’ve been able to keep up with it during COVID but you’re doing a weekly market commentary and I’m wondering again to what extent conscious or not you’re drawing on your education there. Gustavus, certainly when you were there it had a writing across, still does [inaudible 00:26:08] Nationally recognized writing across the curriculum program some people think well I’m in finance I don’t really need to write, how important is writing well in your industry?

Luther Hagen:

I think communicating is essential especially with clients and nowadays it seems like some of the younger folks don’t communicate as much on the phone or in person. It might be easier to reply with an email to a client email but I tend to be one that just picks up the phone and says, “Hey Greg how can I help?” As opposed to just firing off an email. So an answer to your question about the market commentary that’s a way for us to keep in contact with our clients on a weekly basis and it highlights on a high level the markets, the economy, gives a little golf tip in there, a little recipe. Not saying our clients need a golf tip but some of them probably do. Anyways it’s a great way to keep in touch with our clients and it’s easy for them to bounce back and email if something changes in their life or if they have a question on anything but it also keeps us top of mind and I think there’s a lot of industries who probably have opportunity to communicate even better with their clients.

For example generally speaking the estate planning law profession I think people get their estate plan done and they don’t hear from their attorney for 10 years, well if something happens in year six or seven they might forget who their attorney was.

Greg Kaster:

Yes.

Luther Hagen:

So that’s where we want to be top of mind and every week we send out a weekly market commentary email and we do client events throughout the year. Whether it’s a shredding event, tax day happy hour, thanksgiving open house, NFL season opener happy hour. If you go on our website you’ll see some pictures from our past client events. We’re in a serious business but we like to have clients into our office to have some fun and fellowship and at the end of the day clients really don’t want to know how the sausage is made they just want to know the big picture for the most part.

Greg Kaster:

Yeah. That’s true [inaudible 00:28:23] Some of those pictures and the fun part comes through. This emphasis on communication I think is so important and again I’m not sure all students understand just how important that is in the business world. It’s not just important if you’re going to be a history professor, it’s incredibly important and it’s funny the first things I look at, let’s say I’m seeking a doctor I tend to look at the quality of the writing because I think that’s so indicative of the quality of the thinking and vice versa. But I’m curious too about apart from COVID which has its own set of challenges obviously, what are some of the things about your work you find most challenging and also most rewarding?

Luther Hagen:

Greg I think for me some of the relationships that we have with clients that span over 30 years and now we’re working with some of their kids it’s pretty special when you have those kinds of relationships and you get to know people really well and sometimes I feel like a professional visitor because people come in for a strategy session and to review their goals and so on and we talk about life and what’s going on with their family and so on and we get down to business and so on, but it’s all about relationships and I’m in a mastermind group with five other guys. These are all small business owners, hard charging guys and all of them are connected to commercial real estate and I’m the relationship guy in that group and I’m the one that facilitates our weekly call on Monday mornings and I’m the one that’s found some great commercial real estate deals that we’re closing on this week. They’re the ones that have the details and the knowledge to put the deals together but I found the relationships through the brokers that I’ve reached out to so for me it’s about communicating and relationships.

Greg Kaster:

I want to come back to that in a second. What do you find most challenging about the work?

Luther Hagen:

I think managing client expectations sometimes especially in periods like COVID because emotions drive behavior and so when COVID hit I got on the phone and called all my clients and really talked them through it and we work with about 240 client households and only two people tapped out and they both haven’t gotten back in and I feel bad but it’s their money and they’re the ones that pull the shots. But it’s time in the market not timing the market and they made emotional decisions and one gentleman, it cost him hundreds of 1000s of dollars and all advisors in the financial service industry have to deal with this when the markets go up and the markets go down but that’s what the clients need from us is that reassurance so that they keep their cool and make good decisions even when times are bad.

Everybody likes it when the market goes up but it’s a long term thing we’re not investing for 90 days, we’re not investing for one year, we’re investing for the long term so emotional management with clients and education are some key things. It can be challenging and it can be stressful and I know in 2001/02 during the tech bubble I was losing sleep there because there was a three year period-

Greg Kaster:

Right.

Luther Hagen:

And it’s hard to see your retirees take some hits to their portfolio and the temptation is to hit the panic button go to cash but more often than that you’re doing that at the bottom of the market which is the worst time to make an emotional decision-

Greg Kaster:

Yeah. Oh, go ahead sorry.

Luther Hagen:

I was just going to say, I’m 32 years in the business. I’m one of those guys who loves his work, I’m excited for Monday mornings. When I started the business and didn’t have any clients that’s the hard part. It’s a hard industry to get into but once you’ve developed a great clientele like I have and you serve client needs and give a lot of value it’s just rewarding coming to work every day and I have a great team too and we have a lot of fun so yeah.

Greg Kaster:

[crosstalk 00:33:07] Comes through in what you’re saying also on the web page I have to say the website. Back to this business about relationships and also just talking with the client when they come in about life that’s of course very similar to what we do as professors, you may remember this even as a student, I’ll have a student come in and the student is coming to talk about a particular assignment let’s say but we might spend a half hour or more talking about other things. I love doing that it’s one of my favorite parts of the job and I wonder you’re just making me think I hadn’t really ever thought about it before this clearly but I wonder how much of this comes from my own experience growing up watching my dad and mom do it as small business people, as hairdressers right? Who are you know sort of psychotherapists [inaudible 00:33:58] Manicure, cutting the hair and that emotional [inaudible 00:34:02] Called the phrase used emotional management yeah, that’s a lot of what I think we do as professors.

I do much more of that than I ever knew I would as a graduate student or even as a young professor. Really trying to help the students work through challenging times and learn resilience a word you were talking about using a while ago or equivalent word. So I find that all extremely interesting and it really resonates with me. I’m wondering about, before we turn to the philanthropy piece of this conversation, just thinking about where the industry is, again even apart from COVID although we can get into that too if you’d like, what might be the impacts long term of COVID but do you discern particular trends in the industry that for better or worse are going to be changing the industry in the next let’s say 10, 15 years or even less?

Luther Hagen:

I think, Greg, like most industries there’s going to be a continual consolidation going on and there’s going to be more bigger companies. LPL Financials my broker dealer it’s the largest independent broker dealer with 17,000 advisors and more and more advisors are leaving the insurance broker dealers and the wire houses and going to the independent broker dealers like LPL or others because they want to move away from being an employee and be a small business owner and own their book of business without a non compete if they do leave or want to sell their business. So I think the consolidation is going to continue, I think technology is going to continue to change in our industry which is going to help us better serve our clients over time and I’ve seen a tremendous change in technology since I started in the industry 32 years ago. Things are always changing but we all need to pivot and adapt to change. Change is a good thing not a bad thing.

Greg Kaster:

yeah and that’s exactly where you were… You didn’t use the word resilience I guess but that ability to adapt and a liberal arts college that can do it, that can prepare you for that. That’s one of the messages a lot of us are offering our students now that, yeah this pandemic is awful right? And I’m sorry we’re not in person more or you can’t graduate in person but you know what? You’re also learning resilience a word my father drummed into my brother and me coping, coping was his way of learning how to adapt right? As required. I think that consolidation piece, do you see that as a plus or a minus or mixed?

Luther Hagen:

Well I think at the end of the day one of the things we’re seeing too is the number of advisors is going down because there’s so many retirements and there’s not as many young people coming into our industry so for me that creates an opportunity, but at the same time the downside is the people that want and need an advisor may have a hard time finding an advisor and part of that too is when you have an advisor like Luther who’s been around 32 years we’re more selective on who we say yes to as well, it’s a two way street.

Greg Kaster:

Yes

Luther Hagen:

Whereas a new advisor will work with anybody. So when prospective clients come to visit with us they’re trying to see if it’s a good fit for them but also I’m trying to see if it’s a good fit for us, it’s really a two way street.

Greg Kaster:

Right, yeah I guess I’m a little envious. That’s an excellent point and an important point. I sometimes wish I could I sometimes wish I could say to myself or my colleagues, “I don’t think this person is going to be such a good fit for the history major.” But we tend to take all comers. You and Libby are so involved in philanthropy and we’re going to focus on your philanthropy with respect to Gustavus here. I’m just curious about how and why you became involved in that and when did that start?

Luther Hagen:

Well Greg one of the things is I grew up in a household where giving of time and talents and financial resources was something that we learned from my parents and I have a good friend from Gustavus that I graduated with and she always said, “Of those who have a lot, a lot is expected.” And so I’ve always prided myself on being one of the top givers at Gustavus, we can give our time, we can give our financial resources or both and whether it’s serving on the alumni board or whether it’s being involved as a class president I know when we had our 25 year anniversary year or reunion year I should say, I lead our team for that reunion year we had 40% participation in giving and I was pretty proud of that because I don’t think there was any other classes that reached that level from-

Greg Kaster:

[inaudible 00:39:31] That’s a very high level. That’s pretty amazing.

Luther Hagen:

Yep exactly. Of course, the mentoring program is another big thing so we’ve given our time and talents in addition to some of the financial resources I’ve given annually every year since I graduated to Gustavus. Libby and I have funded our Gustavus scholarship fund and what was really cool for us is we connected with that student, she’s a junior at Gustavus and I’ve been mentoring her a little bit as well and I told her, “We’re giving you a scholarship here but I want what I’m giving you in mentoring and feedback to be much more valuable than the dollars that you received from the Hagen scholarship.”

Greg Kaster:

Yes and that actually is something I wanted to ask you about the mentoring. First of all thank you, thank you, thank you. I think the mentoring program at Gustavus is absolutely fantastic it only keeps getting better, I am constantly telling students, basically requiring students to go to the career development office and make good use of that and even former students too and I love, by the way, I love connecting people I’ve always loved that. I think I get that from my parents as well but what is it about mentoring that you find most rewarding?

Luther Hagen:

Well Greg I think youth are our future and we have to invest in our young people and for me there’s nothing better than mentoring a young person and seeing them grow and mature and learn over time and I’ve been in the mentoring program as a mentor, I think seven eight years something like that. One of the mentees invited me to his wedding, that was pretty cool and his father graduated with me in 1988 and at the wedding the mentees mom said, “You’ve made a big impact on our son.”

Greg Kaster:

That’s-

Luther Hagen:

That’s a pretty cool experience and some of those mentees have graduated, well all the mentees have graduated but some of them I’ve maintained a mentor mentee relationship with and a friendship with. So that’s a pretty cool thing it doesn’t just end once May rolls around and the mentoring year is over, at least not with me. So it’s been really rewarding and I feel like I get more than I give.

Greg Kaster:

Yeah and again you’re getting a taste of what it’s like to be a professor, right? I love, I love, I love to get together with alums of all different ages. I do it whenever I can. Whether it’s in Minneapolis st Peter or if I’m traveling somewhere love to do it and you’re right that relationship because a student graduates that’s not the end of you to keep up with students and then to hear back from students maybe you’ve lost touch. For example a couple of summers ago I was in [inaudible 00:42:30] Humanities Summer Institute and in the same hotel in D.C, because she was attending another teacher development institute in the city, was a student I hadn’t seen in 20 some years. In fact I recently recorded an interview with her for the podcast. Luanne Hicks I knew her is now Luanne Big Bear and we just saw each other smile, hug and just it’s like we picked up right where we left off 20 some years before it’s such a good feeling-

Luther Hagen:

That’s great.

Greg Kaster:

I know I mentor as a professor but if I were in business I would definitely want to do what you’re doing that kind of mentoring and we’re grateful for it, all of us. Part of what you do too I think which has impressed me again I’ve picked up on this and in reading a bit about you online on the Gustavus website is you don’t simply give you and Libby I would say you have a vision, you have a sense of what you’d like Gustavus to be and I don’t mean necessarily Gustavus must be this, I don’t mean in that narrow rigid sense at all but can you say a little bit more about what your hopes for the place are as we move further into the 21st century?

Luther Hagen:

Well I think for me Gustavus is a community of caring people and I think there’s a lot of great opportunity at Gustavus and I think there’s a lot that’s been done and we have great leadership, right now Becky Bergman is a fantastic president-

Greg Kaster:

Yes.

Luther Hagen:

And she’s been very instrumental in a lot of things that have taken place at Gustavus. Kathy too and I just can’t say enough about what her leadership has meant to the college but I think ultimately raising money for the college, Tom Young and I have talked about where the endowment should be and where we need to go with that so that’s a whole nother discussion. I’m a big fan of J term. I think Gustavus should require J term or I should say they should require an internship for the business majors to graduate, I’m a big proponent of internships. In fact at Butler were my older daughter when the business department at Butler requires two paid internships to graduate so I think there’s a lot that’s been done but I think the opportunity for Gustavus to get even better is encouraging and to grow the community and provide more financial resources for students that need scholarships and we set up a scholarship fund but we have another scholarship that we’re contributing to on an annual basis so I look forward to meeting more students and making an impact with them financially and also hopefully a connection where we can give them some insights to grow and flourish.

Greg Kaster:

That’s all, again, music to my ears and you know about this as much as I do even more Gustavus traditionally essentially educated ministers and educators, teachers who don’t exactly make a lot of money, never did, still don’t and so the college has always been somewhat resource scarce compared to its quality and to where it could be and so that fundraising piece, can’t thank you enough that’s so important and part of that is, I’ve talked to Tom Young a little bit about this our vice president for advancement and an alum himself… I think Tom is the one who introduced me to this phrase a culture of philanthropy and I wonder if you have any thoughts about that especially as an alum… I do encounter students at Gustavus whose attitude, they love the place but their attitude is I’ve paid i don’t need to get [inaudible 00:46:35] What are what are your thoughts about how to further the culture of philanthropy at Gustavus which is there, I don’t want to suggest it’s not there and it’s not incredibly strong but do we need it to be even stronger I think among faculty and students and even alums? Thoughts about that.

Luther Hagen:

Well I think at the end of the day that whole participation rate and giving back to Gustavus we used to have the [inaudible 00:46:59] and that I think has kind of dwindled a little bit but it was a way to make connections and I remember those evenings where I would go to the call center at some company and get on the phone talk to some of my classmates and ask them to write a check to Gustavus. Of course, I’m good at that I ask people for checks all the time but some people probably couldn’t ask their mom for money so everybody’s got a different skill set but at the end of the day there’s people in life who are givers and then there’s other people that have an opportunity to grow in that area and I always want to be one who leads by example and I think ultimately alumni can make a big impact on students as they come out in encouraging them to give back to the college even if it’s 50 bucks or 100 bucks. As people mature and they grow in their career and they have more financial resources hopefully their involvement will grow and also their financial contribution and some people like myself might also include Gustavus in their estate planning.

Greg Kaster:

Oh, sure yeah. Which you’ve done, you and Libby I believe have done that generously. I think you’re just making me think too you know this I’m not telling you anything you don’t know but the way in which… The mentoring program actually can be a way of enhancing the culture of philanthropy as students are mentored by people like you and others and become aware of your own generosity, your own giving that can be as you say an important example for those young people. Your generosity is obviously incredibly appreciated, it’s extraordinary and I’ve learned so much working for a time with John Hallberg on the board’s advancement committee which he headed at the time and with Tom Young I’ve learned so much about…

I’ve always been interested in fundraising and development and maybe I should have gone into sales I don’t know but I’ve learned so much and just how important that is to a place like a Gustavus and even to a school that’s extremely wealthy it is still incredibly important and how much of it comes down to, to use the word you used earlier, relationships right? Again and again and again. So I can’t thank you enough and Libby as well for your generosity and also for making the time to speak with me about this it’s interesting I love talking to people in the business world I’ve always enjoyed that and it’s been a pleasure Luther. So I hope we can meet in person at some point lunch or something on me when we can. It sounds like things are going well with Infinity-

Luther Hagen:

That’d be great, I’d love to connect with you sometime Greg and yeah I’m thankful I got a great family, a great business, great clients, great network of friends, I’m healthy so it’s hard to get much better than that Greg. I’m thankful and very grateful for the life that I lead.

Greg Kaster:

I feel the same Luther. Thanks so much, take good care and hopefully the next time we speak it’ll be in person.

Luther Hagen:

All the best. Thanks Greg.

Greg Kaster:

Thank you. Bye-bye.

Luther Hagen:

Yeah. Bye-bye.

Greg Kaster:

Learning for Life at Gustavus is produced by JJ Akin and Matthew Dobosenski of the Gustavus Office of Marketing, Gustavus graduate Will Clark class of ’20 who also provides technical expertise to the podcast and me. The views expressed in this podcast are not necessarily those of Gustavus Adolphus College.

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Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
jakin@gustavus.edu
507-933-7510

 

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