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Whalen to give address during SJU commencement ceremonies

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April 25, 2017

Dan Whalen ‘70, Saint John’s University board member and president of Whalen Family Foundation, will deliver the SJU commencement address at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 14, in Saint John's Abbey and University Church. 

MitchellRamond Mitchell, a graduating theology major from Nassau, Bahamas, will be the student commencement speaker, as selected by the Saint John's senior class. 

The 2017 Saint John's graduation class includes 419 undergraduate men and 30 School of Theology and Seminary graduates. 

Born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Whalen grew up in Argyle, Minnesota. He, his siblings and mother eventually moved to East Grand Forks, Minnesota, where he graduated from Sacred Heart High School, and then to St. Cloud, Minnesota, in the mid-1960s.    

Dan WhalenFollowing his graduation from Saint John’s in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science degree in government, he worked a variety of jobs. Whalen worked on a factory assembly line, attended the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Affairs, served as a policy analyst at the federal government’s Administration on Aging, managed George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, was a policy analyst with the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, was director of health planning for New York state and served as a health policy specialist for Gov. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.  

After earning MBA and AM (food research) degrees from Stanford University in 1980, Whalen worked at AT&T as a business marketing manager and as the first director of cellular telephone operations in New York state and New England. Following that, he was vice president of operations for Cellular One in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Since then, Whalen has founded or co-founded a number of telecommunication or related service companies. 

He is currently chair and owner of Great Place to Work Institute, an enterprise that certifies and transforms organizations as great places to work; a partner in HTEC Group, a hardware and software development company; and president of the Whalen Family Foundation. 

Whalen has served Saint John’s as a member of the Board of Regents/Trustees since 1997 (including a term as chair from 2004-07), and was chair for the capital campaign One Generation to the Next, and co-chair for the most recent campaign, Forward Ever Forward. In 2005, Saint John’s presented to Whalen the Fr. Walter Reger Distinguished Alumni Award. 

When Br. Dietrich Reinhart, OSB, stepped down as president in October 2008 due to his health, the Board of Regents called upon Whalen to serve as interim president - a call which he accepted and then served until the end of the academic year. In recognition of his service and leadership, Whalen was presented an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Saint John’s in October 2009.  

Whalen and his wife Katharine have supported numerous initiatives at Saint John’s over the years, including the Student Fund, the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement, The Saint John’s Bible, the Benedictine Institute, faculty development, land acquisition and conservation, and scholarships for 49 students from Bosnia and Herzegovina who attended Saint John’s and the College of Saint Benedict. 

Their philanthropic generosity has also been extended to Saint John’s Abbey, Saint Benedict’s Monastery (St. Joseph, Minnesota), Mount Saint Benedict Monastery (Crookston, Minnesota), Laketrails, a summer camp in northern Minnesota, the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota, and Anna Marie’s, a shelter for battered women in St. Cloud which was named in honor of his mother.  

Dan and Katharine live in Oakland, California, and have three children, Matthew, Anna and Michael.