Outlook Magazine - Fall 2023


“Stout met and exceeded my expectations,” Hag mann said. “They had excellent teachers who made learning enjoyable. During the process I made numerous lifelong friends and had a lot of fun. I worked my way through college, but I loved my time there.” The positive experience they had at UW-Stout was duplicated at Medtronic — McCombs and Hagmann felt blessed to be there. Medtronic was founded in 1949 by electrical engineer Earl Bakken and his brother-in-law in a garage in northeast Minneapolis. A company tradi tion was the annual holiday celebration, where patients gave moving testimonials regarding how Medtronic’s life-saving products positively impacted them and their families. “It’s a great company driven by its mission state ment, which is to ‘restore people to full life,’” Hagmann said. “Rodger and I achieved success by building great teams of highly qualified pro fessionals. It seemed that every time you turned around there was a need for more real estate and shared services.”

A memorable project they oversaw was Medtron ic’s award-winning, world headquarters in Frid ley, Minn., that opened in 2000, a $154 million, 500,000-square-foot, five-building complex. “It’s a wonderful feeling when I drive by such an iconic building and that I am able to show my grandchildren,” Hagmann said. They also managed the national award-win ning, 1.2-million-square-foot, $291 million new campus in Mounds View, Minn., which included a 5,000-car parking ramp and had the governor’s endorsement. And there was Medtronic’s Euro pean headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, overlooking Lake Geneva and the French Alps. McCombs lived in Switzerland for eight months in the mid-1990s to help see the project through. “I had access to senior management, which was very important for me to get things done,” said McCombs, who retired as vice president of Busi ness Shared Services, a key role as Medtronic expanded and consolidated systems. Previous to that role, he was director of corporate adminis tration. “The corporation was on quite a curve of growth and income.” McCombs had a $60 million annual operating budget and a staff of 160 people in several divi sions, including Hagmann, a UW-Stout frater nity brother with whom he worked closely. In

fact, McCombs recruited Hagmann, who began as a facility engineer and was promoted to direc tor of Real Estate and Construction. Hagmann traveled around the world negotiating facility leases, planning building projects and partici pating on the Medtronic due diligence team for mergers and acquisitions. Hagmann created a model the company used to plan facility needs based on sales projections, employee growth and productivity goals. The model helped convince Medtronic senior man agement when new facilities would be needed. McCombs and Hagmann believe their UW-Stout education, with lab projects like a factory simu lation in a class taught by Zeke Smolarek (’64, ’66) , set them up for success. “I was a hands-on guy. Stout was very good at that but also the visionary element and how you plan for growth, perceive goals and track them,” said McCombs, who also cited Professor Ray Hansen. McCombs grew up in a rural area 25 miles north west of Milwaukee, first attending UW-Whitewa ter then UW-Platteville before finding UW-Stout, where he met his future wife, Marcia Zakaria sen , at a dance. Hagmann, from Eau Claire, had a summer internship at Medtronic through Stout’s Career Services. Both had other jobs out of col lege before soon landing at Medtronic.


Fraternity brothers teamed up to support dramatic growth of Medtronic Inc., a world leader in making medical devices

Rodger McCombs (’69) and Donn Hagmann (’76) graduated from UW-Stout when Medtronic Inc., headquartered in Minneapolis, was beginning to make a name for itself in the growing biomedical engineering field. When they retired from Medtronic, McCombs in 2006 and Hagmann in 2011, it was the world’s leading medical device-maker doing business in 120 countries. Core products include implantable cardiac pacemakers and vascular, neurolog ical and diabetic products, to name a few. They feel fortunate to have been a part of the company as revenue increased dra matically from $50 million to $15.9 billion during their careers. Their UW-Stout industrial technology majors provided the qualifications to manage construction of more than $1 billion worth of new or expanded Medtronic facilities around the U.S. and world.

(Previous Page) Alums Rodger McCombs (Left) and Donn Hagmann (Right) (Top) Medtrontic headquarters





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