An Interview With Richard M. Schulze

Richard M. “Dick” Schulze is the founder of the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and chairman emeritus of Best Buy Co. Inc., the world’s largest multi-channel, consumer electronic retailer. He’s also the visionary and generous funder behind the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence.

Born and raised in St. Paul, Schulze is the ultimate entrepreneur and is living the American dream. From a modest background, he and a hand-picked team built a retailing empire based in the Twin Cities. Through it all, he adhered to his life-long values of integrity, humility, honesty and respect — both in his professional career and his personal life. In years to come, Schulze hopes to be remembered by a personal legacy involving three major contributions through business, entrepreneurship education and philanthropy.

The Catholic Schools Center of Excellence is most grateful to the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, one of its founding funders and committed supporters.

Q. What drives the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation’s interest in funding the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence (CSCOE)?

A. I’m really driven on the premise that this is an opportunity to build the best-in-class educational model. I really think America has to get back to grassroots, fundamental educational premises that say, “Let’s truly engage our young people in what it is they are going to need to know to succeed in their lives.” And that isn’t just academia. That includes values. That is morals and respect. [The United States is] 23rd in the world [in education] in contrast to being first when I went to school.  It’s only been about the last 25 to 30 years that we’ve lost our way in education. We need to get focused on what is important, and to me what is important in our country right now is young people and their ability to learn and to grow and to succeed. So if we can do that, in this case, through the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and our Catholic schools, then we have to feel even better about our ability to make a difference in our society.

Q. Can you share more about what a best-in-class educational model looks like?

A. We want the [Catholic school] student experience to be the best in the country. That takes leadership. It takes teachers who are passionate about it. It takes technology that enables it. And it takes a process that makes the kid want to go to school because it’s fun to learn. Then it takes sharing that model with parents who know and can now see that, “My kid can’t get to school fast enough, and he comes home and talks about what he has learned.” [All students] need to be able to succeed in whatever venue or occupation or in the future of their own preferences and desires, and it’s the foundation blocks they get in early education that prepare them to be able to be all they can be.

Q. There are many ways CSCOE could invest in Catholic school education. Are there any areas that should be priorities?

A. If we’re providing opportunities to grow and to learn, it should not just be the students, it should also be the faculty. Investing in their ability to expand, to learn, to grow, to change and to succeed is vital. They need to be as stimulated by what they learn and how they grow as the students they teach. It’s tied to leadership. I use the example that second grade teachers throughout the entire network should be sharing with each other challenges, issues, opportunities and direction. At no time should any second-grade teacher feel like an island. They should feel like they are connected to others who share their issues, their challenges and who have succeeded in overcoming them. And it’s the sharing of the successes that helps to create better outcomes everywhere. By leveraging success in areas where it’s apparent and effective, it only helps to raise those same outcomes in more places. The more places we can share successful outcomes, the better we’ll be in how we teach our children.

Q. What will it take for our Catholic schools to be successful long-term?

A. Catholic schools will be the hallmark of what best-in-class education looks like, feels like and is measured by. We will have many individuals and foundations willing to invest in success. That means putting real money into forming elements that will help to create excellence. We want to have many more people join in to help. We need to invest in teacher training and technology, we need to invest in curriculum, we need to invest in process and we need to invest in communication. I want more people to see and understand and appreciate the fact that what we are really doing here is building the best educational model for all 79 of our Catholic grade schools.

Q. Is there anything else our schools should keep in mind as we move forward?

A. We have to be best-in-class! That means our schools should be thought leaders. We can get inspiration from all over the world. We have to ask ourselves, “What does great look like?” and then “How can we do it?” For instance, take Finland, ranked fifth in the world in the education. What do they have that we could adopt or adapt? Our Catholic school system is the best because we address the whole child — all aspects of formation. But we can still learn from others how to excel in certain areas. CSCOE as an organization has to be staffed with thought leaders who are looking for the next right, best thing we should be doing.

Click here to learn about the Richard M. Schulze Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

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