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Stuart Gustafson '92 MBA
Stuart Gustafson entered the MBA program at USD in August of 1989 while working full-time for the Xerox Corporation in Scripps Ranch. He’d been using his math degree from San Diego State to write computer programs for use in printers and graphics programs, but he wanted to broaden his knowledge of the business world, and this required an advanced degree. He received his MBA in May 1992 with an emphasis in Finance and Entrepreneurship, and his academic achievements were rewarded with a lifetime membership in the international honor society Beta Gamma Sigma.
What have you been up to since graduation?
I thought our family would stay in the San Diego area once I received my MBA, but the job market in the technical fields was not very strong in 1992 and 1993. A year after graduation we moved to Boise, Idaho, where I took a job with Hewlett-Packard, another printer organization, where I was able to leverage my technical background along with my broad-based business knowledge. The MBA served me very well as I was able to use skills from so many of my classes (particularly finance, marketing, and operations) to quickly interact with numerous parts of the vast business. My various roles were in Software Quality Assurance, Technical Marketing, Product Marketing, and the last seven years in Printing Services. I was able to take early retirement in 2007 after only 13+ years with HP, largely due to my MBA from the University of San Diego.
Now that I’m retired from the corporate world, I love to travel and I love to write. I have the US Registered Trademarked name as America’s International Travel Expert®, I’m a million-mile flier on a major airline, and I’ve started writing fictional mystery novels set in exciting locations around the world. One of the great things about being an author, and enjoying international travel, is the ability to go to wonderful places to conduct research for an upcoming book. My first novel, Missing in Mexico, has its primary setting in San José del Cabo, Mexico, more commonly known as Los Cabos. I chose this location at the tip of Baja California because it’s a place where my wife and I escape to every February when we’re tired of the winter in Idaho! So I know the area well, plus the people down there are so warm and charming. You can read more about my books, my travels, and me at my website www.stuartgustafson.com.
What is your fondest memory of USD?
This question is almost like asking John Wayne which was his favorite western movie, or asking Tony Gwynn which was his favorite baseball award. I, too, had many favorites, but the one memory that stuck with me for the full three years of my program is what drove me to do my best. I remember a gathering at the beginning of the school year in 1989 when [former] University President Arthur Hughes addressed the incoming students. He said something like this, “You’re paying a lot of money to go here, and so you should demand a lot from your professors.” I took that to heart, and I found that every professor was more than willing to listen to me, to answer my questions, and to give me excellent guidance.
What is your favorite place on campus, why?
There’s no question that it has to be Olin Hall. For almost three years, I was visiting the classrooms and the offices of Olin Hall for what seemed like every day. There were times when it seemed onerous, especially with work and a family, but then there was a certain letdown after graduation and I didn’t “have” to go to class. Returning in August after the first year of classes was like a Homecoming; it was familiar and it was enjoyable. I knew where I wanted to sit in certain classrooms to avoid glare from the setting sun, or where I could watch the late students race into the building. USD was the right size graduate-school campus for me, and Olin Hall was the perfect building for all my classes. Its intimate size was just ideal, and I can still picture it today as I close my eyes and remember each of the seventeen classes in that beautiful structure.
Who was your favorite USD professor or class?
Professor William Soukup was destined to be my favorite prof at USD even before I enrolled in my first class. I lived in La Mesa, and I had stopped at the 7-11 store at the top of the hill on Avocado Boulevard to get gas. A gentleman pulled up to the other pump in his little green sports car with the top down and the license plate USDPROF, and guess who it was – Bill Soukup! We chatted about USD as we lived less than a half-mile apart, and I ended up taking the four-class Entrepreneurship sequence that he headed. My wife and I became friends with Jan and him, and I helped him with some classes after I graduated. Bill always had the time for every student who needed a question answered, and the answer wouldn’t just be a single sentence. If you asked a question, you’d better be ready to take notes because you were going to get “the answer” and the background to the answer.
How have you remained involved with USD since graduation?
Not as much as I’d like to be, but that’s primarily due to living about a thousand miles away. Upon graduation I taught the GMAT prep course on campus while I still lived in the area. I really enjoyed that course because it got me back on campus, and it allowed me to inject my enthusiasm for USD’s program to those future MBA students.
These days, my involvement is limited to electronic and print publications from the school and the Alumni Association – thanks to all of you who keep them coming out to us. I enjoy reading about classmates and other alums, where they’ve gone, what they’re doing, and how they’re helping others. Some of these media weren’t around back in 1992, and that’s not even twenty years ago. The Facebook Alumni Association page lets me know what’s going on right now; there are a few names I still recognize, plus just knowing “what’s going on” is a lot of fun. I’ve contributed to various fund raisers throughout the years, primarily to the School of Business, and I plan to continue my support. I’m making some tentative travel plans right now to fit around the annual USD European Alumni Association meeting that will be in Italy in June of 2012. That would be fun get-together for my “20-year reunion.”
If you could offer a current USD student advice, what would it be?
The world is a big place, but not so large that you can’t go where you want to go and make a difference where you want to help others. You may hear that “Life is short,” but it’s shorter for those who haven’t been given the blessings that you have: love, family, education, hope. Share your blessings with others.
Trenton Mendenhall '14
Trenton received his bachelors degree in Behavioral Neuroscience in 2014. Soon after graduating, he began his service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji promoting health and wellness to local communities.