Who We Are
Michael Brewer joined the board in the late winter of 2015.
He works as Senior Leader for the Securian Financial Group. With Betsy, he volunteers at dinner service at Our Saviour’s Community Services and previously volunteered at an elderly care facility. Michael said he knew full well what today’s workhorses were going through.
“Betsy and I were workhorse scholars, the exact candidates to which the Erickson Merkel Foundation is reaching out,” Michael said. “We understand that it can be a struggle to finance a college education without building up debt that can burden a graduate for many years after school. We were fortunate enough to complete our degrees without a penny of debt and would like the opportunity to help others achieve the same.”
Chris has been with the Erickson Merkel Foundation since its beginning, as a cofounder, board member and volunteer communications director. Beyond refining language governing the foundation’s vision, he brings focus to the communications strategies implemented by the foundation. Chris’ career in the communications world includes six years of publishing, eight years of public relations work for the military and nearly a decade of work in branding and creating communications plans for small businesses.
Matt is another director with ties to the namesake, growing up with brother Chris on their family’s farm, before moving on to bigger things. Matt wishes to help relieve the strain on those working to put themselves through school. Currently the Manager of Engineering and Chairman of the Board for KLM Engineering, Matt also serves as Command Sergeant Major for the 682d Eng. Bn. He has been with the Minnesota Army National Guard for about 20 years.
Ben comes to the foundation with plenty of volunteering experience. When he’s not working as a Manufacturing Engineer for 3M or serving as the local ambassador in its New Employee Onboarding Network, Ben offers his time to both the Special Olympics Minnesota and the Miracles of Mitch Foundation, where he has volunteered his time since June 2012 and Aug. 2013, respectively. “As a relatively recent graduate, I feel pretty in touch with some of the financial burdens facing college students, both in school and upon graduation,” Ben added. “I feel that I will be able to help the foundation define the “work horse” scholar. Additionally, I plan on participating and leading committees to strategize the best way to support those work house scholars.”
Samantha Fischer started with the board in March of 2015. She works as Staff Accountant for Mayer, Porter & Nelson, LTD. Samantha is also with the Jaycees, and has served as treasurer of Crew and as a member and coordinator of Alternative Break Experience. She said she was interested in board service due to her belief that everyone should graduate with as little debt as possible. “I understand the additional stress having a job creates,” she said. “I feel that ‘workhorse’ scholars do not get recognized enough for their hard work and think a scholarship is a great way to recognize them for their commitment to getting an education.”
Paul has been with the Erickson Merkel Foundation since its launch, serving as a board member and the organization’s volunteer finance director. Paul lives with his wife Jessica and two children in Maplewood, Minnesota. He enjoys running, reading, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. Paul graduated with honors from Saint Cloud State University with degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics. In addition, he graduated from the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Ariziona, where he studied analysis of strategic and tactical intelligence.
Eric is a cofounder, executive and active board member for the Erickson Merkel Foundation. As volunteer executive director for the foundation, he focuses on promoting the organization’s mission and advancing strategy and organizational development efforts. After earning a Master of Business Administration degree from St. Cloud State University, Eric went on to study marketing and digital and social strategy as an executive education participant at Harvard Business School. His career includes more than a decade of branding, marketing, and design consulting for small businesses and more than fifteen years of public relations work for the U.S. military. Eric is an investor and managing principal for Bavarian Ridge Investments LLC.
Hannah has been with the board since the EMF was founded. She provides tours and top-notch guest experiences at New Belgium Brewing and works closely with their donations and grants team. As the volunteer scholarship director, Hannah coordinates the application and review process.
Jared Klempel joined the board in early 2015 after learning about the Erickson Merkel Foundation from Chris and Eric, who he’d served with in the National Guard. Jared works in the North Dakota National Guard as an Army Command Administrative Assistant and in his spare time serves as head coach in a youth football league. He said his interest in joining the board came up because he’d always wanted to be part of an organization that was driven by helping and encouraging others to do their best in order to accomplish their goals. “I can help EMF’s mission with my willingness to work hard … and to help them envision EMF’s bright future and enlist their help to accomplish EMF’s goals/mission,” Jared said.
Anne McGuire was drawn to the board in early 2015 after having a conversation with one of her nephews on the board, Matt Erickson. Anne works as the Director of Programs and Pilgrimages for Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics. Anne obtained her Ph. D. in Theology from Notre Dame University. She said she was impressed with the mission of Erickson Merkel Foundation. “As a college professor I know many students who struggle to advance their education while working to support themselves and their families,” Anne said. “As a parent, the need for financial assistance during college is underscored. Both of these make me committed to finding ways to reward, in whatever way possible, those who want to get a college education while finding their careers working at the same time.”
Chairman of the Board
Sean has been with the board since its first meeting in October of 2014, although in spirit he’s been with the foundation even longer. He currently serves with the National Fire Sprinkler Association, the National Fire Protection Association, and the The Breakfast Club of Minneapolis. Previously, Sean has served as the treasurer of the Uptown Hamel Business Group, and prior to that as the community service chair/chancellor of Delta Sigma PI, Professional Business Fraternity. Sean is both excited and hopeful that his prior experience in fundraising will help bring opportunities to the leaders of tomorrow.
AJ joined the foundation in 2014 He works as the vice president of recruiting for Hirenomics. AJ respects hard work and want to reward kids that have the same values as himself but may not be as fortunate. He is looking forward to being part of the foundation and finding ways to give back to the community both personally and professionally. AJ received his BA in Business Administration from Metropolitan State University. He’s also been associated with the Beacon Bank as a personal banker, and has served as an assistant coach with the Wayzata Youth Hockey.
A North Dakota native, Mike attended Bismarck State College for two years before earning his bachelors in English and Mass Communications from Minnesota State University Moorhead. Upon first hearing of the mission of EMF, Mike was thrilled to be part of the cause. He has launched Up & Running Web Design, a successful web and marketing firm based in Bismarck. Currently, Up & Running provides several paid internship opportunities to local college students.
Carly Retterath joined the board in late 2016 after learning about the Erickson Merkel Foundation from Chris. Carly works for Mandan Public School as a Special Education Coordinator and as a soccer coach. She said her interest in joining the board came from a desire to help individuals pursue their dreams of receiving a high quality education without going into significant debt to do it. “As an educator I know the importance of a college education, but I also recognize the financial burden it places on many individuals. That is why I love working with EMF to help hard working people get the education they need.”
Aaron joined the Erickson Merkel Foundation board October of 2014. He works aat the American Heritage National Bank as the Assistant Vice President – Loan Mortgage Officer. He previously worked as a Home Mortgage Consultant with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage where he worked with and closed loans with over 900 clients during his time as a Mortgage Consultant with Wells Fargo. Aaron is was in at the beginning of the foundation, he is greatly looking forward to the whole experience, specifically helping the students who are applying themselves full time to better themselves and their future.