The Toro Company and The Hoffman Family Foundation announce gift

By edited by Sarah Bunyea

The $3 million gift to the University of St. Thomas will establish the Melrose & The Toro Company Center for Principled Leadership.

Rachen Buosa / Dreamstime

The Toro Company, Bloomington, Minnesota, in partnership with retired Toro chairman and CEO Mike Hoffman and his wife, Tami Hoffman, announced a $3 million gift to the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in honor of the late Kendrick B. Melrose, who passed away in May of this year.

Melrose, who preceded Hoffman as Toro’s chairman and CEO, successfully led the company for nearly 25 years until retiring in 2006. This gift will establish the Melrose & The Toro Company Center for Principled Leadership at the Opus College of Business and includes a $2 million donation by The Toro Foundation, along with a $1 million donation from the Hoffmans. These commitments were established in February 2020 and will be funded over a four-year period.

The new Center is being created to foster professional engagement on principled leadership and public dialogue on racial equality to help further understanding and drive needed change in our communities.

“This generous gift will honor and celebrate Ken Melrose as a principled leader who promoted the values, practice and impact of servant leadership,” says Stefanie Lenway, Ph.D., dean of the Opus School of Business.

This cause was important to Melrose, who championed the concept through Leading by Serving LLC, an organization he founded in 2006.

“Ken Melrose was an extraordinary person and a very important figure in our company’s history,” says Richard Olson, current chairman and CEO of Toro. “His principled leadership, during extremely challenging times, inspired employees to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and put The Toro Company back on a winning path. Today, in the midst of a global pandemic and the need to advance equality and inclusiveness for all, it is critical that we come together to build community and inspire change. We are pleased to partner with the University of St. Thomas, along with Mike and Tami, to honor Ken’s exceptional legacy in this meaningful way.”

“Ken was an authentic servant leader who didn’t just talk the talk but personified the concept through his highly principled approach to business and day-to-day life,” says Mike Hoffman. “He was highly intelligent and goal-driven, but Ken’s humility, grace and concern for people placed him in a rarified class.”

The Opus College of Business envisions the Center as a means of advancing Melrose’s mission and honoring his legacy of servant leadership. It is envisioned that the Center will gain national recognition as a research hub and thought leader in servant leadership and social justice.