General Mills: A Legacy of Leadership

In January of 1976, General Mills signed on as a founding partner of BestPrep, led by the efforts of Vice President of Industrial Relations at General Mills, Don Friborg. This initial partnership set the tone for over 40 years of collaboration, characterized by a unique commitment from leadership within General Mills to champion BestPrep’s programs.

Bruce Atwater, former Chairman & CEO of General Mills, was an early supporter of BestPrep’s programs, believing they offered an essential service. “Young people need to have a much better understanding of our nation’s economic system,” explained Atwater, “…(BestPrep) blends academic learning with direct exposure to business people and business situations in a real environment and it meets this need head-on.”

An extensive list of General Mills’ leaders have passionately invested in BestPrep’s growth and have been at the forefront of program development. In September of 1976, Phil Gustafson, former Vice President of Consumer Affairs, addressed an auditorium of South St. Paul students as BestPrep’s first speaker, laying the groundwork for a program that now provides over 700 presentations annually. Additionally, General Mills played a critical role in the development and implementation of the Minnesota Business Venture Program in 1981 and Cloud Coach program in 2017. Today, General Mills’ employees volunteer across all seven of BestPrep’s programs.

BestPrep has had the privilege to work with Reatha Clark King and Jim Shannon with the General Mills Foundation. Jim Galovan, former Vice President of Personnel & Marketing provided valuable leadership as a member of the BestPrep Board of Directors and Ted Blood served as Board Chair in 1993. Ken Powell, Chairman of the Board, was a featured speaker at our 40th Anniversary Educational Forum.

David Clark, Vice President of General Mills, and President of U.S. Retail Yogurt, is currently BestPrep’s Board of Directors Vice Chair. He has played an integral role in mobilizing 526 volunteers donating more than 7,500 hours annually. He aptly captured the importance of BestPrep’s programs explaining, “We live in a vibrant Twin Cities community with a bright future, yet the achievement gap is large and graduation rates are too low. BestPrep offers a solution by inspiring students to stay in school and pursue careers in business, and I’m proud to be part of this important effort.”

Though BestPrep’s programs and impact have evolved, the support of General Mills’ leaders has been consistent and remarkable. Their support has been integral in each chapter of BestPrep’s history, and we are excited to continue to grow this partnership to serve Minnesota youth.