Louise DiGirolamo Hansen emigrated from Italy to the United States as a teenager. On the east side of St. Paul, she started her new life as a ninth-grader who didn’t know English. Louise finished high school without the opportunity to pursue higher education. But she had a different plan for her children.
“She communicated that education was very important,” says son James W. Hansen, BA ’77, BS ’78. “It was always clear to my brother and me that we would not only attend college but also earn a professional degree.”
Jim and John (BSB ’79) listened to their mother and enrolled at the U, with Jim as the first in his family to attend college. He became a science teacher at Mahtomedi High School and went on to complete an MBA in finance at the University of St. Thomas.
Jim’s successful business career included serving as CEO of a technology business and chair of a large software business while staying connected to education as a member and chair of the Mahtomedi School Board and as an adjunct faculty member at St. Thomas. When his alma mater, Hill-Murray School, was looking for a new president in 2014 and called to ask his advice, he shared his thoughts with the search committee. To his surprise he soon got a call that he was a finalist.
Recognizing a challenge and an opportunity to give back, Jim accepted the position. Under his leadership, the school has doubled its fundraising, launched game design and coding clubs, and grown enrollment for four straight years.
Jim has made significant financial contributions to several local educational institutions, including the University of Minnesota. In December, thanks to a story about CEHD’s commitment to recruiting and supporting first-generation students, the U got an extra boost.
Jim read “The first-generation force” in the winter issue of Connect and, in memory of his mother, increased his giving. With an outright gift and an addition to his estate pledge, he established a scholarship for first-generation students interested in science education.
“Being a classroom teacher was the best job I ever had,” Jim says. “It offers the chance to stretch your mind and see things from different perspectives. I want more first-generation students to have the opportunity to become teachers and encourage others to pursue their career goals.”
His mother would be proud.
Story by Ann Dingman | Photos courtesy of Jim Hansen | Spring/Summer 2018