Lifelong Warrior


Asked to list his goals for the Winona State University Foundation, Dan Mortensen ’79 saves for last the one that’s closest to his heart.

“I hope to firmly establish the concept that we’re ‘Warriors for life,’” says Mortensen, who is in his first year as WSU Foundation chair. “That students strongly identify with Winona State, and as they graduate and move on through life, they maintain their connection to the university and are proud of being Warriors.”

That notion is something that Mortensen has rediscovered – and treasured – in the last few years.

Mortensen majored in business administration at Winona State. He considered combining law and business school after graduating, but decided to focus on business. Even as he earned his MBA at the University of South Dakota, his experiences at Winona would stay with him.

A small business consulting course taught by economics professor Don Salyards, during which he worked with a company in Rochester, “fueled my interest in consulting,” says Mortensen. He went on to consulting positions at Arthur Andersen & Co. and later McGladrey & Pullen, two of the country’s largest accounting and consulting firms.

Working as a consultant afforded Mortensen a look at every facet of business management. He was drawn to the operations side, he says, because he enjoyed the challenge of “process management and problem-solving.”

Mortensen steadily moved up the operations ladder, mostly in the financial services industry, at some of the largest companies in America, including Citibank, Household Credit Services, GE Capital, and now, Capital One Financial Corporation, where he is a senior vice president responsible for corporate real estate.

Inevitably, as his career took him to seven states and his family responsibilities grew, Mortensen’s connection with Winona State waned. But it never darkened completely, and the attributes that he developed as an undergraduate – determination and perseverance, leadership, integrity – still guided him. “The traits of a Warrior,” says Mortensen.

A few years ago, Mortensen began thinking about strengthening his ties and the prospect of giving back to the university. Armed with the belief that he had something to contribute, he re-visited campus and was asked to join the Foundation board.

“Initially, I questioned how I would be able to fulfill the duties of being a board member, living 1,300 miles away,” acknowledges Mortensen, who is based in Richmond, Virginia.

In the Internet age, Mortensen says it’s easier than ever to play an active role in the university community. Board meetings can be conducted over videoconference and committee work transacted via email. He uses the Web to stay abreast of campus events, especially Warrior athletics.

Mortensen says his four years at Winona State were “a real transition.” He paid his way through school and was the first college graduate in his family. It’s been fulfilling to spend time with fellow Warriors who shared experiences similar to his, and to rekindle old friendships and craft new ones. He’s even found time to re-connect with his former mentors, such as Salyards and economics professor Marvin Wolfmeyer.

Despite the time, the distance, the demands of work and family, Dan Mortensen has remained a Warrior for life.

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About Winona State University

Founded in 1858, Winona State University is a comprehensive public university with more than 8,500 students. The oldest member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, Winona State offers 80 undergraduate, pre-professional, licensure, graduate, and doctorate programs on its three campuses: the original Main Campus in Winona, the West Campus in Winona, and Winona State University-Rochester.

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