Ron Mitsch ‘52 grew up attending St. Paul public schools. However, when it came time for high school, his mother decided that Cretin was the place for him. She was a big believer in the importance of education and wanted him to have an understanding of other religions, so he enrolled as one of the only Lutherans in the school. One of the Christian Brothers took him under his wing, and Ron took advantage of the opportunity to develop an understanding of a different religion – a skill that would serve him well during his many international travels later in life.
He converted to Catholicism during college, when he married his wife Marilyn. After college, he struggled to find the right path until a former professor encouraged him to apply to graduate school. He earned a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Nebraska and got his first professional job at 3M working on chemistry related to the moon landing. He recalls crying in a New York City airport when the landing was televised – it was such an important moment for all Americans.
As his career at 3M progressed, he worked on a wide variety of products that are used all over the world. He also had the opportunity to work abroad, moving his family to the Netherlands in the late 1970s.
His unique combination of scientific knowledge and an intuitive understanding of the human element allowed him to climb the ranks at 3M. By the time he retired in 1998, Ron was the Vice Chairman of the Board and Executive Vice President of Industrial and Consumer Markets. In 1999, he was proud to be honored by the Commercial Development Association for his leadership and commitment to the people, customers, and stockholders of 3M.
“No job was too small and no challenge was too big,” said his son-in-law, Leo Johnson. “He applied his business acumen, scientific inquisitiveness, and his strong understanding of human nature to add value and profitably grow a variety of businesses.”
He and Marilyn have enjoyed devoting their time in retirement to their children and grandchildren, and to charitable giving. After their son Sean passed away in 2005, they also raised his daughter. They have donated millions to scholarship funds both in the Twin Cities and across the nation. They have endowed scholarships in their own fields of interest as well as in honor of other people, such as a music scholarship in the name of a beloved Roseville music teacher and an international education scholarship in the name of the professor who encouraged Ron to pursue his educational dreams and attend graduate school.
In honor of Ron Mitsch’s exceptional achievements in business and philanthropy, we are honored to present him with the Bishop Cretin Award.