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2019 Commencement Speaker: Mary Fuhrman '95

Published Saturday, May 11, 2019
Mary (Reisdorfer) Fuhrman '95 was this year's Commencement speaker
Mary (Reisdorfer) Fuhrman '95 was this year's Commencement speaker

The power of relationships was the message of Mary (Reisdorfer) Fuhrman, a 1995 alumna and the 2019 Southwest Minnesota State University Commencement speaker.

In many ways Fuhrman has grown up with the Hy-Vee grocery company. She’s been with them, after all, since 1988, when she was an Adrian, Minn., high-schooler.

 “I worked at the Hy-Vee in Worthington. Then when I went to Southwest (Minnesota) State, I transferred to their Marshall store,” she said. She earned a Business Management degree and a Marketing minor.

Fuhrman is the Senior Regional Vice President, Northern Region, for Hy-Vee. She oversees operations in 10 Twin Cities Hy-Vee grocery stores, along with two stores in Mankato and single stores in New Ulm and Faribault. Hy-Vee is a growing, 88-year-old business and is based in Des Moines, Iowa. There are approximately 250 stores in the employee-owned company which has only just recently moved into the Twin Cities market. She moved to Eagan a year ago with her husband, Robert. They have a daughter, Maggie, who just completed her first year of college in Iowa.

“I hope that at least a portion of what I share with you stays with you, as I truly believe it can make the difference between just holding down a job, and building a life and career that are genuinely full of meaning,” she said to the Class of 2019. “The difference between those two scenarios has been most clearly defined, in my career and my life, by the power of relationships. Over and over again in my life, I’ve seen how the work of creating and maintaining relationships has paid off in incredible ways — and yes, it is work. But it’s the most important work you’ll ever do.”

In today’s text-message, Instagram world, she stressed the importance of going further — of actually picking up the telephone and talking to someone, or sending a personal note, rather than a “thank you” email.

“I remember those cards, and the feeling of connection I had with each one of those people who took the time to write to me. … Don’t underestimate the impact you can make by taking the time to make a call or pick up a pen.”

She has held numerous positions within Hy-Vee during her years with the company, each adding more responsibility. And each new challenge has meant more personal connections, and more expectations from communities who look to Hy-Vee as a corporate leader.

“My advice to you is to be (the kinds of people) who are genuinely devoted to helping others, and to making connections. It is so important to all of us as we navigate the ways that our society is changing. Be genuine in your desire to help, and in your desire to connect with others. Winston Churchill, who is often called the greatest statesman of the previous century, said 'We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.' Give others your help and attention whenever you can, and see how your life is made that much richer by doing it.”