Future Bennies and Johnnies got an inspiring taste of possibility this week during a reception for accepted students featuring one of College of Saint Benedict’s highest profile alums, Best Buy CEO Corie Barry.
More than 150 potential incoming students and their families packed an auditorium at Best Buy’s corporate headquarters in Richfield on Wednesday evening for a conversation between Barry, CSB class of 1997, and CSB and SJU President Brian J. Bruess, Ph.D.
“This whole school is a center for ethical and purposeful leadership, and it was 30 years ago—before it became cool to be a center for ethical and purposeful leadership,” Barry told the crowd.
Barry, who serves on the CSB and SJU boards of trustees, was 44 when she became CEO of Best Buy in 2019 — one of the youngest executives to join the ranks of Fortune 500 CEOs. At the time, 27 women were leading Fortune 500 companies; today, there are more than 50.
The child of artists from small-town Cambridge, Minnesota, Barry went to the College of Saint Benedict craving what she has described as “structure and stability.” She worked on campus, played rugby, and double majored in accounting and management, graduating summa cum laude.
“The coolest part of Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s is the variety of things you can do,” Barry said. “It’s untouchable.”
She never dreamt she’d go on to lead a large company, but Barry credits her education with leading her on that path.
“The thing I am so passionate about when it comes to liberal arts education is (that) it is so much more than a tactical, linear path to your specialty. It is, ‘How do I think critically? How do I work in large groups of people? How do I speak and write eloquently? How do I keep coming after a problem, even if it is uncomfortable?’”
Bruess zeroed in on the importance of a focus on problem solving, both in and outside the classroom.
“I find this generation of students particularly inspiring,” he told those in attendance. “The things they want to do. The problems they want to solve. It’s life-giving and fun to be a part of.”
Barry also spoke of the unique traditions and culture found on both campuses. She met her husband Martin, a SJU graduate, on campus.
Bruess also stressed the sense of community and involvement so present in daily life at both schools.
“We love being totally immersed in the experience - whether it is cultural, music, theater (or) athletics,” he said. “One of the traditions I love is that every year the two campuses host each other for the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. For me, that is so much fun seeing the students supporting each other on the two campuses.
“It’s a real sense of family. Those kinds of experiences are rich for everyone involved.”
Barry and Bruess were followed by some of the current CSB and SJU students whose stories will be featured on an upcoming episode of the Amazon TV series The College Tour, which will focus on the two schools. CSB and SJU dean of admissions Cory Piper also spoke, followed by remarks from current first-year students Tess Cavanaugh and Ben Bugbee.
Current CSB and SJU students on stage whose stories will be featured on an upcoming episode of the Amazon TV series The College Tour.