I first met Brian Kueppers '89 in the mid-'90s. A mutual friend had started a golf event for his buddies and business associates, and for three years he paired Brian and me in that tournament. I learned a lot about Brian in those three years, but the first thing I realized was his love for Saint John's. He bled Johnnie Red more than just about anyone I knew. On top of that, he had a great sense of humor and was extremely upbeat and articulate.
At Saint John's Brian had been a management major and an accounting minor, and he also threw himself into a program called the Organizational Leadership Project. In the OLP students created fictitious companies that competed with one another. He loved it, and my recollection of our last conversations on the golf course was that Brian was close to making the big leap into starting his own company. That was in the late '90s.
Fast forward to 2006, and Brian's name came up in a conversation with another terrific alumnus, Cary Musech '80. "Have you ever met Brian Kueppers?" he asked. "You need to meet this guy because not only is he outstanding in business, but this guy is the most passionate Johnnie I have ever met. I thought I loved Saint John's. But this guy is off the charts!"
I then learned that Brian had started APEX Revenue Technologies, and it had succeeded to such an extent that it had attracted the attention of Cary and his company, Tonka Bay Equity. Now Tonka Bay was close to making an investment in Brian's venture.
Since graduation Brian and his wife Shelly (CSB '89) have stayed connected with Saint John's and Saint Ben's, but the contact intensified when their daughter enrolled last year, majoring in biology. "She was challenged academically to a point she had never experienced before," Brian says about her first year. "She learned how to ask for help. She learned different ways to study and how to survive. And then she went out in the forest with her friends and a monk and tapped trees to make maple syrup. She struggled with finals, did well, and felt good about herself and her successes. And then she went to the greenhouse at Saint John's to pick up a couple of tomato plants to take home for the summer. She played volleyball. She hung out with her Benedictine friend." Brian's conclusion? "Saint John's and Saint Ben's are a package deal, and they are the best formula for success in a career and as a person.
Through the years Brian has given back to Saint John's in many ways. Among other things, he's made himself available to students for networking, and he's spoken to business classes as well. But when Brian and Shelly learned about the McNeely Center and the work of students who actually start real companies, they had to take their involvement one step further. They simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to make that program even stronger through their own investment. The success of their own company has allowed them to make a difference in a new way -- this time through a generous commitment to the McNeely Center.
From time spent with Brian and Cary and with so many other alumni, I've learned this. Johnnies are eager to learn and they're goal-oriented. And while they're determined to achieve their personal goals, they seem just as interested in bringing others along for the ride. It's a privilege to work with Johnnies like Brian, and I look forward to meeting many more like him in the years to come!