Distinguished Alumni Award in Memoriam
Bob Naegele lived a life of excellence. From business success to philanthropy, he never settled for good enough. Despite his many achievements, there is no doubt that Bob's most celebrated moment came when he successfully led the efforts to bring NHL Hockey back to Minnesota, "The State of Hockey."
Bob graduated from Minnetonka High School in 1957, where he served as class president, played football, tennis and—of course—hockey. Minnetonka was also where he met the love of his life, Ellis Jean Fitzimons '57. They were married in 1961.
Classmate Carlyle "Jack" Ballantine '55 remembers Bob well, proclaiming that, "if there is a better example for future grads of a community citizen and friend to all I haven't met that person."
After attending Dartmouth College, Bob worked for the family business, Naegele Advertising. Bob and his brother, Bill '60, eventually bought the Twin Cities arm of the company, the first of many business successes. In 1984, he invested in a hockey training product company, Ole's Innovative Sports. He renamed it Rollerblade Inc. and, under his leadership, inline skating went from a niche activity to a national phenomenon. When he sold the company in 1995, Bob shared more than $1.5 million of the profits with his employees.
A lifelong hockey fan, Bob was always saddened by the loss of Minnesota's home team, the North Stars. One day, his son arranged for him to meet with then St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, who was trying to bring the National Hockey League back to Minnesota.
Following Bob's passing, Mayor Coleman remarked publicly, "As a mayor, I dreamed great dreams, but it was Bob Naegele who had the skill and the faith to turn those dreams into reality. The result was the Minnesota Wild."
Bob used his wisdom, financial acumen and business connections to lead the group of investors that launched the Minnesota Wild franchise, becoming its first majority owner. Under his tenure, he weathered an NHL lockout and helped build a solid foundation for the new team. He eventually sold the Wild in April 2008 but will always be remembered for bringing back Minnesota hockey.
"We are all grateful to the dreamer who made the return of the NHL possible," said Jac Sperling, former CEO and board member of the Minnesota Wild, in a public statement, "as will be future generations of Minnesota hockey fans. We will all miss Bob greatly." Minnetonka will miss Bob as well, but his legacy will continue to inspire generations of Skippers to come.