Tag Archives: business development experience

Rick and Jo Berquist Endow a Professorship in Entrepreneurship and Innovation

“I put my money where my mouth is, and we get a great deal of satisfaction by doing this.” —Rick Berquist

Rick Berquist has been associated with four universities in his life: He studied at Michigan State, the Colorado School of Mines, and Georgia Tech; and he has been a leader at Michigan Tech for twenty years.

“I learned more at Michigan Tech than the other three universities combined,” he says now. “I work with a lot of good people making good decisions. Being associated with people of that caliber has been rewarding.” And, although he’s not a business alum, the chemical engineering major says he gained his business acumen through the school of hard knocks.

Berquist served more than ten years on the Michigan Tech Board of Control and another ten years as a trustee of the Michigan Tech Fund. “I developed a taste for Michigan Tech,” he says. “It has become very special.”

One of the things he learned at Tech was fundraising. “I learned that anytime you lead a fundraising effort, you give mightily.” He says that with both conviction and a chuckle.

That realization led Berquist and his wife, Joan (Jo), to establish an endowed professorship in the School of Business and Economics with a $1 million estate gift and to fund the position during their lifetimes with annual giving. “I put my money where my mouth is,” he says, “and we get a great deal of satisfaction by doing this.”

They support the School of Business and Economics because it’s Berquist’s belief that engineers need to be well versed in technical issues and business skills. “Engineers need to get businesses going,” Berquist avows. “They need to bring forth products and services that help the country. Also, Michigan Tech does a great job of promoting teamwork, and that’s a big part of any success—create teams that make things happen.”

“This is a major gift in our School—not simply in the amount donated, but in the impact this endowment will have on our academic programs and our research,” says Dean Darrell Radson. “This gift will help us continue our mission to integrate the experience-based learning that will develop leaders in global business and innovation.”

Berquist says he emulates his father, who was a businessman known for his persistence and his product. “He pushed forward and established something for the good of the people. That’s important. You need them as customers.” His father started a propane distribution service in Carney, Michigan, in 1945, and he grew the business into home heating and propane transportation. Rick worked for his father and learned about entrepreneurship from him.

The Berquist professorship will also help the School build a core team of faculty in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation, and business strategy. The professor will also be directly involved in teaching entrepreneurship classes and advising the Business Development Experience, where business students write and present business plans for new technologies being developed in engineering Senior Design courses and the Enterprise program. Saurav Pathak has been announced as the new Berquist professor.

This article was originally published in Impact, the Michigan Tech School of Business and Economics magazine.


Tech Entreprenuerial Team Competes With National Schools

A snapshot from Michigan Tech's NCIIA competition video. Vote Now!
A snapshot from Michigan Tech's NCIIA competition video. Vote Now!

Go to the Inventor’s Digest website to vote for the Enhanced Bio-Med Helmet.

It takes a lot of people with different specialties to make a big idea come to life. According to Associate Professor of Economics Paul Nelson, “The enterprise program and many of the engineering senior design teams are multidisciplinary. Because business plans, project management, and financial analysis are almost always a part of these teams’ work, School of Business and Economics  students have been involved from the beginning on an ad hoc basis.”

Dr. Nelson is an advisor for one of these groups. His entrepreneurial team’s big idea: the Enhanced Bio-Med Helmet. The EBM Helmet Team’s Marketing and Financial Coordinator, Eric Tangko, described the invention, “We have decided to come up with a helmet technology that will give the user protection of both direct impact and rotational impact. We want to make sure that our helmet will reduce the impact of possible concussions. This is what EBM Helmet was based upon.” Recently, physicians and medical staff have become increasingly concerned with the damage concussions cause to the brains of athletes involved in high speed collisions.

Why a Helmet?

The EBM Helmet Team based their project on this research. “2,000,000 cases of head injuries happen each year. From these cases, 300,000 of them lead to concussions,” said Tangko. “So far, many people believe that their helmet will protect them from any type of head injuries. However, research has proven that it is not true. In fact, current helmets only protect their users from direct impact.”

The team has become a finalist in the March Madness Expo sponsored by the National Inventors and Innovators Alliance’s (NCIIA). The online competition, required the team to make a short YouTube video, describing their invention. They will be competing against The University of California (Berkeley), Northwestern, Brown, Rensselaer, Rice, Cornell, and seven other top schools.  In order to win the competition, the team needs your help! Go to the Inventor’s Digest website to vote for their invention as the best in the group.

The team is also included in a selection of competitors that will show off their inventions in three weeks at a national exhibition in San Francisco.

We will see increased involvement of business majors in these types of projects in the future. According to Nelson, “The School of Business and Economics is formalizing the involvement of business students in these teams by introducing BA4991-4992, Business Development I,II (Business Develoment Experiences) in the curriculum for students entering this fall.  These courses will equip students to develop business plans, foster innovation, and involve participation in multidisciplinary Enterprise or senior design projects across the Michigan Tech campus.”