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Students hear wisdom from a college drop-out

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April 28, 2015

By Tommy Benson '17

Tom Love poses for a picture with an SJU student after his presentation.

College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University students and staff packed a Saint John's lecture hall to hear advice from a college dropout.

Tom Love, chairman and CEO of Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores, spoke about his life as a business tycoon in Alcuin Library, AV1, on Monday, March 30.

Love built the 13th largest private company in the United States from the ground up and is ranked 137 on Forbes' list of World's Billionaires in 2015. And he accomplished all this without the college degree that eluded him in his stint at SJU.

Even so, SJU gave him a foundation. Arriving in 1955, Love spent one year at SJU, during which time he formed a lasting relationship with his football coach John Gagliardi, immersed himself in the Benedictine culture, and enjoyed the freedom of college life, perhaps to his demise.

"My experience (at SJU) was brief, but I enjoyed it so much. I guess too much," Love said.

He flunked out at the end of his first academic year and returned home to Oklahoma. However, his experience at SJU was not a failure. At Saint John's he learned the values of the Benedictines, which would carry over to his career in business and as a family man.

"Your time at SJU will influence the rest of your life because of the Benedictine tradition," he said. "I can tell you that the Benedictine tradition was burned on my soul. And it is a fantastic tradition."

Love said the lessons he learned from the Benedictine tradition helped him develop an EQ, or emotional quotient. In contrast to an IQ, or intelligence quotient, EQ is a function of people skills, personal motivation and perseverance.

"EQ is more important than IQ. Drive and determination trump brains and connections every time," Love said.

This message was well received by CSB student Claudia Eisenhuth, a sophomore economics major and global business leadership/mathematics minor from Mendota Heights, Minnesota.

"All through our academic years we have been evaluated on our intellectual intelligence, but a bigger factor is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is being able to inspire others and work well with them. EQ comes from the ability to win people's hearts, not through a paycheck, but through a great culture," said Eisenhuth.

Fr. Wilfred Theisen, OSB, saw validity in this sentiment as well, as he quipped, "I was a 4.0 student all through my schooling and I never made a dime in my entire life."