Dale Peterson Reflects as He Sets to Retire as ACES Board President

Dale Peterson Reflects as He Sets to Retire as ACES Board President

by Jenn Schultz


Dale Peterson, who has been ACES Board President for the last decade, has made a significant impact on ACES. Dale is a Hamline University graduate who wanted to obtain a PhD in mathematics to teach and do research. He received a National Science Foundation grant and went to graduate school at the University of Indiana, where he was also a teaching assistant. However, after serving in the Army, Dale chose to finish his Master’s level studies and begin a career in computer technology, starting with air traffic control and including online information retrieval and a range of tech startups.

Fortunately for ACES, Dale always had an interest in education. He was introduced to ACES through his professional connections. As Dale retires from his position as president of the board, we wanted to sit down with him to reflect on his time with ACES.

What made you decide to get involved with ACES?
I was a member of an organization called Social Venture Partners (SVP), a group of people with backgrounds primarily in venture capital and tech startups. We were looking for entrepreneurial opportunities to invest in social service organizations with innovative approaches to addressing critical social needs. We selected ACES for a two-year grant, and Dave Latzke and I agreed to be the SVP managing partners for ACES. In the fall of 2003, I joined the ACES board because I liked the cause, ACES’ innovative approach, and the people involved. There were 5-6 people on the board when I joined, and ACES had one full-time employee.

How did you become board president?
On that initial board, we decided each of us would fill a role based upon our backgrounds and experience. Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter had a communications background, so he agreed to handle our PR and communications. Steve Spellman was the CFO at Champion Air, so he agreed to manage our finances. ACES founder Raj Shah served as the board chair.  Bob Waldron was the president of Yoplait, so he agreed to be the president. I volunteered to work on fundraising. Dave Latzke, from SVP, and Joy Lindsay, one of my former business colleagues, joined the board and worked with me on fundraising. That’s how we divided our responsibilities initially.

My transition to president happened around 2010 or 2011. Bob Waldron left Yoplait and resigned from the ACES board, Raj Shah moved to emeritus status, and I took over as president of the board. 

What’s your biggest takeaway from your time as board president?
Boards evolve as organizations grow. Initially, our board was very involved in every aspect of the organization. Then, as ACES grew and added more staff, the board took on more of an oversight role with a focus on organizational growth and fund development. For a successful board it’s important to have a diverse set of skills and experience, and to have people who work well together and work well with the staff. We’ve been fortunate over the years at ACES; we’ve had a dedicated and effective board and a very capable and hard-working staff.

What has been most rewarding for you about working with ACES?
There are several things that come to mind, including several of the special experiences made possible for our students by our sports team partners. One that stands out was when approximately 25 of our students had the opportunity to meet Randy Moss and be on the field with Randy at US Bank Stadium when he was inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor. It was a great experience for the students; each student got to meet Randy personally and received a tee shirt, a signed hat and a signed football. 

It was a Monday night game on ESPN, so we also had the opportunity to tour the ESPN broadcasting vans. We got to meet the directors and producers and got a firsthand look at what goes on into a successful broadcast. We learned there were more than 30 cameras positioned to cover the game, and several of the cameras were isolation cameras to follow specific players. Before the game, Vikings punter Jeff Locke met with our students on the field, posed for pictures with them, and let them try on his helmet. Then we got to watch the game from a field level box. It was an unbelievable experience for our students and a great day for ACES.

These kinds of memorable experiences for our students, for them to have fun learning, to feel valued and to gain self-confidence, these are the kinds of things that make ACES special.

What about ACES has kept you invested and involved in the organization?
The impact on our students. It’s fun to see them grow, to see the difference in the trajectory of their lives. What we do at ACES is give our students hope. They gain confidence when they experience success and see their efforts rewarded. They become more willing to put themselves out there and make more of an effort in their schoolwork and other activities. Over the years, the organization has gotten stronger and the program has gotten significantly better. I think we do an important job and we can measure the difference we’re making for the students. The need for our work is far greater than our current capacity. That’s part of the incentive; there’s plenty of need out there and we have lots of room to grow.

We’ve got a great group of people on the board, with a wide array of talents who take their roles very seriously. And we’ve got a tremendously skilled and creative staff that works incredibly hard on behalf of our students. Overall, it’s just a rewarding experience, helping our students and working with great people. 


Claire BartholomewComment