The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth

Volume 18, No.1, Winter 2001


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Alumni Profiles

Technology and Talent
Within the Range of Education
Triple Trouble


Technology and Talent

Sean Dean ’94 and Steven Dastour beat the odds with a new Duluth computer start-up.


Sean Dean, a 1994 UMD School of Business and Economics graduate, and his business partner, Steven Dastoor weren’t really nervous. They were ready. It was 1995 and they were sitting in their tiny office in Canal Park. There was just enough room for their two desks shoved together and one extra chair for Greg Lundberg, the principal of the School District of Maple. Lundberg straightened his tie and smoothed the front of his suit jacket. He was asking questions, “Could you install multiple computers, network them together and provide technical support?” Dean and Dastoor explained how it could happen. They had proved themselves with over a dozen companies already and had even installed a series of small networks.

And then Lundberg did something that forever changed the lives of these two young entrepreneurs. He pulled a substantial purchase order out of his briefcase. That piece of paper put Citon Computer Corp where it is today. That paper represented an honored trust. After Dean and Dastoor were able to stop smiling and laughing, Lundberg told them what had made up his mind. Lundberg had called all ten of their references and every single individual called back. “I have never had that happen before,” said Lundberg. The positive reviews of UMD professors and respected business professionals convinced him to give this young company his business.
Dean and Dastoor say those good references came from a philosophy they continue to value. They use the best equipment, they use the best components and they don’t walk away until everything is up and running smoothly.

Citon Computer Corp builds personal computers and offers comprehensive technology integration.

People told them they wouldn’t succeed because the computer field was just too competitive. When the business was still in the planning stages, they explained the concept to a UMD Center for Economic Development (CED) business developer who outlined all of the challenges they needed to face. “I guess we looked like a tiny pimple on the landscape of computer technology. It sounded like he thought we could never make it,” said Dean. “But we didn’t give up. We knew people needed the service we had to offer.” At that session they were given a blue form, it was a Step By Step sheet for starting a new business. “We followed it right down the line,” said Dastoor, “checking each item off starting with securing an assumed name, a sales tax identification number, and a Federal Tax ID number.”

The pair credit two factors in their success: help from the UMD Center for Economic Development and start-up assistance from a Duluth business leader.

Dean and Dastoor used every appropriate service the UMD Center for Economic Development offered. A UMD marketing class took on their business as a class project and provided ideas on how to make their business grow and where they should look for new customers.

They attended one of the Business Simulation Labs, led by School of Business and Economics Dean Kjell Knudsen. For an entire weekend, the participants took on different customer and business roles. The entire weekend was videotaped.

CED staff created challenging situations, and the participants were able to watch human reactions. Dastoor said, “Once we were using a bank as an example. When an irate manager criticized an employee, we observed a change in the relationship of that employee to the customer.” The biggest lesson of the weekend was that positive exchanges between people may make the difference between a successful business and a failure.

Dean and Dastoor met with CED staff, took workshops and learned how to use the lingo. Some of it, like “document, determine, design, deploy,” said Dean, “is still part of our every day business.”

The second factor in Citon’s success was the help of an interested Duluth businessman, John Goldfine. While helping Goldfine’s daughter with her computer, Dean and Dastoor explained their idea for the new company. Goldfine loved it. He personally knew people who were looking for this exact service. Dean and Dastoor had already had some success refurbishing used computers for resale and Goldfine recognized their potential. He offered them a Canal Park office with a phone for no money down. They paid rent on a month to month basis. Then another business leader, Joe Jeannette of the Cartier Agency stepped in. He offered to give them business insurance on a payment plan. Their total 1994 start up finance package came to $400.

Seven years later, Citon’s annual gross sales amount to over $1 million. Their clients list is growing from small businesses to large ones like Cirrus Design airplane manufacturing. They have taken on a series of government projects, and they have just leased space in the new Duluth Technology Center in downtown Duluth.

CED director of business development Lee Jensen Bujold said that the CED has installed all Citon Computers in the CED computer lab and staff offices, and she just bought a Citon Computer for home use, based on the quality of the product and Citon's exemplary customer service. Their service record earned Dastoor and Dean an award for entrepreneurship, given annually to outstanding entrepreneurs in Northeastern Minnesota.

Citon is breaking records. Their seven-year jump from an investment of $400 to over $1 million in annual sales is a success in anyone’s book. Alumni that need assistance in starting or expanding a business in the Arrowhead Region are invited to contact the UMD Center for Economic Development by e-mail at ced@umdced.com or call 218-726-7298, 1-888 387-4594.


Within the Range of Education

Retired teacher June Hendrickson and Superintendent Robert Belluzzo have a lot in common. They both attended UMD; Hendrickson graduated in 1951 (1967 with her masters) and Belluzzo in 1978. They taught in neighboring classrooms in Hibbing’s Washington Elementary School for nine years. But the greatest bond between them is their desire to maintain quality education in the Hibbing School System in the face of an economic crisis on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Hendrickson retired from teaching five years ago, with a list of accomplishments as long as your arm. She was named to the Minnesota Teachers of the Year Honor Roll in the 1960s, Hibbing declared a June Hendrickson Day, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from UMD, she was declared one of the top 100 people who influenced Hibbing, and she received an award for Minnesota Academic Excellence. The Hibbing School Board was not about to let her go. She was encouraged to run for a school board seat and she won. And that is how she teamed up with Belluzzo again.

When the Hibbing Schools had a vacancy for the superintendent position, Belluzzo was a solid candidate. Belluzzo hadn’t moved far away; he served as the superintendent of schools in the smaller Chisholm district and his reputation was so strong, Hibbing hired him back.

The new job came with the intricacies of a larger district. “We are members of a collaborative, along with St. Louis County, that provides Hibbing with social services, addresses health issues and provides non-typical educational services,” he said.

Like any school district, the Hibbing Schools had situations that needed solutions. A fire during the construction of the high school addition meant some students had an extra long vacation and getting the required class days back on the calendar created a headache. Hendrickson said the board came up with a plan to “lengthen class periods slightly, schedule class during a couple of breaks, and extend the school year into a couple of weeks of the summer.” They solved the dilemma without causing a problem for the students.

One innovation is a credit to Hibbing and Hendrickson. She created the HAT (Hibbing Academic and Talented) Program for elementary students and she spent the last ten years of her career as its coordinator. She said, “Every Monday afternoon until 4 p.m., elementary students, academically able or talented in the visual arts or performing arts, can pursue their interests.” HAT Day is well established and there are no scheduled elementary sports on that day. That way everyone, even athletes, can participate in art, enrichment activities and vocational training after school. And for over a decade, Hibbing has held onto this sacred day, steadfast in their emphasis on academics and a quality education.

Hibbing also struggles to keep a full day Kindergarten class. “The state only pays for a half day,” said Belluzzo. “So the school district has to come up with the funds for teachers, classrooms and supplies for the other half.” Both he and Hendrickson feel that a full day Kindergarten is good preparation for school. Furthermore, the half day is stressful on the working families in the community.

Another challenge faced the school board in recent years: technology. Hendrickson said, “We had to propose a referendum to raise the money for our technology infrastructure.” The historic Hibbing High School needed to get wired for technology and it needed high speed connections in order to prepare its students for jobs in the real world. The citizens agreed and the referendum passed on the first election.

But there is one difficulty that Hibbing hasn’t overcome, and it may take years before the results of this struggle are known. The mining industry has started to lose steam and the ramifications on Hibbing are incessant. The mining layoffs began a couple of years ago and families left the area. When mining families leave, they take the money they would have spent in the community with them. “We haven’t seen many businesses in Hibbing close yet,” said Belluzzo, “but it is certain that some will be downsizing.”

Declining enrollment translates into declining finances and recently Hibbing was forced to closed its Cobb/Cook school. The stable brick structure, with a perfect setting for a Kindergarten center, now sits empty.

Belluzzo worries that Hibbing will have to compromise its standards of excellence. “We need qualified teachers,” he said. “When we have positions that need to be filled, will we get good teachers when they know this is an area of declining enrollment?”

The LTV mine in Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota, has officially closed. Three additional mines are threatening to slow down or shut down and the implications make Rangers worry about the future.

In the short term, the Hibbing schools are sound. Test scores are improving and teacher accountability is high. “We have no serious discipline issues,” said Belluzzo. “We get upset with students who leave pop cans in the halls of the high school.”

Both of these alumni remember UMD fondly. Belluzzo remembers doing homework in the Bullpub and going to football games in Griggs Field.

Hendrickson, who was one of the few young women who majored in mathmatics, was impressed with her teachers, especially Department Chair Dr. William McEwen. She said, “Dr. McEwen fostered my life-long interest in mathmatics.”

Hendrickson also remembers lots of fun. One year she and her friends dressed up to trick or treat at their professors houses. This behavior is from one of the first Alworth Scholars, a program that continues today! Hendrickson helped organize the prom at the Duluth Armory with the Jimmy Dorsey band. She and her classmates also sewed a huge bulldog and stuffed it in order to ride with it in the homecoming parade. As you see, her organizing skills developed early. She plans to use these skills again as she helps with the 50th Reunion this fall for the Class of 1951.

And so, with a mixture of wisdom and playfulness, these two alumni join to make the Hibbing Schools as good as they can get. And they are doing a first-rate job.


Triple Trouble

Three alumni brothers find it hard to stay away from UMD

There are at least two reasons to write about these three men. First, in the Spring of 2000, the Bell brothers, Charles M. Bell, ’72, Frank S. Bell, ’70, and Thomas Bell III, ’68, of Duluth were presented the 30th annual Business Persons of the Year Award by the UMD School of Business and Economics.

And second, the three brothers are setting up a Bell Brothers UMD Athletic Endowment.

These are both great reasons to tell you more about these alumni.

They are well-known in Duluth. The Bell family operates the Bell Brothers Chapel in West Duluth and the Jarvi-Dowd Chapel on East Fourth Street.

The Bell brothers became business partners in 1973. Since then, they have been active at UMD and in many aspects of the community including serving on the boards of area organizations and businesses.

In receiving the Business Persons of the Year Award, the men were recognized for “extraordinary service to the community, as well as for their business abilities” by the UMD School of Business and Economics Dean Kjell Knudsen.

The following is an excerpt of the speech Dean Knudsen gave at the award ceremony presenting Charles, Frank and Thomas with the Business Persons of the Year Award.



All three Bell brothers were born in Duluth, graduated from Shattuck Military School in Faribault Minnesota, and graduated from UMD in 1968, 1970, and 1972. Two went on to the School of Mortuary Science at the University of Minnesota.

The Bell brothers became business partners in the Fall of 1973. All three brothers served on the board and were presidents of the Western Area Business & Civic Association. Two brothers served several years on the United Way Board of Directors and all three were active in many annual United Way campaigns besides belonging to the United Way Sieur du Luth Society. One has been very active in United Depot Campaigns and the Great Lakes Aquarium fund drive.

One brother served on the Board and was president of the Duluth Quaterback Club and a member of the UMD Bulldog Club and was Honorary Fund Campaign Chairman. And another brother chaired the recent Duluth Athletic Facilities Referendum committee, the first referendum of its kind ever to be passed by the Duluth voters.

One brother is an Eagle Scout, served as Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 16 and is Chairman of the Eagle Scout Recognition Dinner and is a life member of the National Eagle Scout Association. Another brother served as District Commissioner for Boy Scouts of America-Auriga District and served on the Board of the Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross and its Disaster Action Team.

All three brothers are members of Euclid Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite and Aad Temple Shrine. One of the brothers is a 33rd Degree Honorary Mason and a recipient of the DeMolay Legion of Honor award and another is past Master of Euclid Lodge.

One brother served two different terms on the Board and also president twice of Goodwill Industries and another brother served on the Board of the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of Duluth for over 20 years, president for two years. Another brother was co-founder of the St. Louis Bay Ducks Unlimited while another was one of the founders and served as president for two years of the non-profit development association SVCNDA, Spirit Valley Citizen’s Neighborhood Development Association.

One brother served on the Board and was president of St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center. And another served on the Duluth Charter Commission. One brother serves on the Selective Service Board #3 and is currently Chairman. Another brother served on the Board of the Duluth Chamber of Commerce and was the first President elected in its 115 year history who resided west of the point of rocks.

One brother was a member and served on the Board and was the president of Duluth Rotary #25. He was the son and grandson of former presidents of Downtown Rotary. One served on the Board of the Duluth Superior Community Foundation, the Proctor Area Community Foundation and Duluth Rotary Foundation and another brother served on the board and was president of the Ordean Foundation. One brother served on the Board and was president of the Kitchi Gammi Club.

One brother serves on the Community Board of Directors of Norwest Bank and another served on the Board and as vice-president of Miller-Dwan Hospital and on the Board and president of the Miller-Dwan Foundation and another brother currently serves on the Board of St. Luke’s Hospital.

Two brothers have been members, but one brother served as president of the Arrowhead and Minnesota Funeral Directors Associations.

All three brothers are active and have served in many leadership positions in their respective churches. One is a member at Forbes United Methodist Church and two are members at Asbury United Methodist church.

One is married to Micki Bell and they have three children, Tom, John, Kate and have a grandson, Dexter. One is married to Rosalie and they have two children, Krissy, Peter, and may have another. And one has three children, Nicole, Charles II, Natalie and a grandson, Ian. Each of the three brothers have a dog.

by Cheryl Reitan

 

 
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