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Jeff and Roberta Carlson and their son, Ryan

Jeff and Roberta Carlson and their son, Ryan, are supporting students at UMD by giving to scholarships.

Generosity in the genes

Giving back runs in the family for two generations of UMD alumni

By Mary Winstead

From M, winter 2008

For the past two years, the Carlson family has attended the University of Minnesota, Duluth's scholarship banquet, a festive annual event where generous donors and grateful recipients meet and mingle.

In 2006, UMD senior Ryan Carlson and his parents were thanking the local business leaders who had made Ryan's engineering scholarships possible. But by the time of the 2007 banquet, roles had reversed: In a single year, two generations of Carlsons--Ryan and his dad--had earned their degrees; Ryan had funded a scholarship; and his parents, Jeff and Roberta, had established one, too. This time, UMD students were thanking them.

Shortly after graduation, Ryan landed a job at 3M and in six months had contributed to a scholarship for engineering students. "I wanted to give something back," he says. "I was lucky. I received help with tuition and I wanted to help other engineering students."

As an added incentive, the matching program offered by Ryan's employer made his decision to give doubly attractive. "I really wanted to do it," he says. "But with 3M's matching program, I couldn't afford not to."

The following year, Jeff Carlson graduated from UMD in geography and business. He and his wife, Roberta, then established the Carlson-Amys Scholarship for students studying at the Labovitz School of Business and Economics and UMD's College of Liberal Arts. "We chose business and liberal arts because of how important those fields have been in my life," Jeff says.

Throughout his 23-year career in facilities management at UMD, Jeff benefited from the Regents Scholarship to take classes toward his degree. "All that time I was juggling part-time schooling with full-time work and family," he says. "But going for the degree made an enormous difference in my career advancement."

"Our family believes in education," Roberta adds. "And this scholarship honors our family and my parents, who couldn't go to college but loved UMD. Education is a great thing, and in the long run it pays off. More scholarships mean more students going to college."

As for Ryan, he has wasted little time in extending the generosity. "I wanted to start giving as soon as possible," Ryan says. "I'm not that different from other people my age. I have a good job and can spend money on fun stuff like video games and a nicer car. But giving to scholarships is way more rewarding."