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Thomas Frederick MADISON


1936 - 2019 Obituary Condolences
Thomas Frederick MADISON Obituary
Prior to his death on April 10, 2019, Thomas Frederick Madison, age 83, of Hopkins, MN, played golf with great friends under a clear blue Arizona sky. Tom was born in Minneapolis, on February 25, 1936, the eldest of two children, brother to his younger sister Barb. His father Earl was a railroad engineer and his mother, Berniece, managed a bakery. As a youth, he had two paper routes and he bagged groceries in order to buy his first car, a 1941 Chevrolet 4-door at age 15. Tom graduated from Minneapolis Roosevelt High School in 1953 where he met the love of his life, Pat (Marilyn Louise Johnson). Interested in studying to become an astronaut, Tom pursued an aeronautical engineering degree at the University of Minnesota. He left school during his freshman year to take a job with Northwestern Bell. He worked underground, beneath manhole covers as a splicer helper, and then above ground, as a lineman installing telephone poles. He believed these jobs were the wake-up call that he required, "I didn't want to do this work for the rest of my life. I knew I needed to go back to school and prove I could become an engineer." In 1957, Tom returned to the University of Minnesota, married Pat, then a year later they had their first child, Mike. He subsequently graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering. At this time, came their second child, Mary. This degree provided Tom with ten job offers in the engineering industry, but he chose to return to NW Bell, because "the people were good, the benefits were good, and the culture was good. It was the right fit for me." As he began his career at NW Bell, Tom and Pat welcomed their third child, Mark, in 1962. Tom rose from a service foreman, who managed telephone installers, to President and Chief Executive Officer in 1985. He also served as President of US West Communications, the successor to NW Bell, and known today as Century Link. In all, Tom held 16 positions with NW Bell and US West in Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, before "retiring" in 1992. He then founded the investment and business consulting firm MLM Partners, coincidentally his wife's initials, and continued working and working and working until his death. He also was serving on the board of directors of the public company, QUMU. His business experience and broad network provided him the opportunity to serve on more than 40 corporate boards, and in 2009, he earned the top spot on the MPLS St. Paul Business Journal List of "The 50 Hardest-Working Board Members". Companies such as MN Mutual Life Insurance (now Securian) and Digital River tapped Tom to serve as Interim Chief Executive Officer. "I could contribute, and I could help," Tom said in explaining why he remained active in the business and education communities, serving on boards into his 80s. "As a CEO, I faced a lot of different challenges and opportunities. I had been through the mill, so my goal was to help the management of companies avoid the kind of mistakes I had made." His service on Digital River was illustrative of this philosophy; he joined the Board in 1996, shortly after it was founded, and remained for 19 years. "I have enjoyed the challenge and the fun of new, innovative technology," he said. "Every company is faced with challenges and with changes in technology, and if the company can't adjust, it won't exist five years from now." Leaders in the business community found Tom's contributions to be invaluable as he was able to work at the granular level process to make an organization function better and he could operate at the highest level and talk about governance issues in an international area. Tom's service on non-profit and community boards also was extensive. Shortly before his death, he was serving on the University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees. Past Board memberships also included the College of Science and Engineering and the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, Creighton University, Catholic Charities, Guthrie Theater, Minnesota Orchestral Association, Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, Kidney Foundation of the Upper Midwest, Greater Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Greater Minneapolis United Way, Greater Minneapolis Housing Corporation, University of Minnesota Hospitals and Clinics, and Fairview Health Systems. His honors include an Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota in 2010, one of only 1,200 alumni to have received the award out of 500,000 graduates. Tom created many opportunities and events for his family and friends. A long-standing tradition continues today — a monthly card club that Tom started with boyhood friends while he was in college. Another is his and Pat's commitment to the Basilica of St. Mary and the restoration efforts that they helped see through. Both traditions are indicative of Tom's innate drive towards connection and community that enabled those around him to flourish. (continued in next column)
Published in Pioneer Press from Apr. 14 to Apr. 21, 2019
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