Who We Are
Founders and History
Carl and Eloise married in 1947. Both grew up in hard working Catholic families that played a central role in their interest in caring for the poor and serving others. Among his many jobs, Carl delivered the laundry his mother did for wealthy families and swept floors at a local bank. Despite his success, Carl was regarded as a “regular guy.” He treated people from all walks of life with respect, retaining a soft spot for the little guy, and never forgetting his humble beginnings.
Carl Pohlad was a born entrepreneur. Throughout his life he combined strong intuition, keen understanding of people, intense work ethic and abundant patience to become one of Minnesota’s most successful business owners. He was revered by his employees and respected by business colleagues around the country.
With an initial focus in banking, the organization now spans several sectors: commercial real estate; automotive; finance and banking; sports and entertainment, including the Major League Baseball franchise the Minnesota Twins; and private investing. More than 2,500 professionals are employed in more than 30 companies operating across the United States. Marquette Companies serves as the holding company for many of our operating businesses.
In addition to its business interests, the Pohlad family has a long history of community involvement and charitable giving through the Pohlad Family Foundation. Our businesses contribute at the local and community level as well.
Eloise passed away in 2003 and Carl followed in 2009.
In 1993, Carl and Eloise Pohlad established a family foundation in Minneapolis, Minnesota so their family’s practice of supporting community needs could transition, in part, to a more public effort. Carl and Eloise were active in the Foundation throughout their lives. Today, the Foundation continues its work with gratitude for their wisdom, generosity and love of the Twin Cities and its residents.
During the first five years of operation, the Foundation supported a wide variety of community services with small grants. For the many nonprofits that received support, it was a welcome, new source of support. Between 1995 and 1998, the total grants awarded annually grew from $247,000 to more than $673,000.
By 1998, the foundation’s assets had increased significantly, from $4 to $14 million. These increased assets provided a healthy base as the foundation began a new phase in its operation.
This new phase began with adoption of a three-year plan that included a new mission focused on the Twin Cities metro area and youth and families in need. The Foundation also committed to granting $2.5 million of its assets in each year of the plan. Systems, policies and personnel in place ensured the Foundation became more responsive and transparent in its operations.
In 2012, the Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) recognized the Foundation’s record of “outstanding philanthropic commitment” with its annual Outstanding Philanthropic Organization Award.
Today, the Pohlad Family Foundation is governed by Carl & Eloise’s three sons, Jim, Bob, and Bill Pohlad. A broader mission statement focused on improving the quality of life in the Twin Cities and addressing important issues and needs in our community guides the Foundation’s work. In recent years, areas of focus have included employment programs for youth, outdoor and out-of-school opportunities for children, small and large capital projects, and a geographic focus on north Minneapolis. Through 2015, the Foundation has paid more than $140 million in grants.
Board and Staff
(l-r above) James O. Pohlad, Robert C. Pohlad, William M. Pohlad; President
Susan Bass Roberts- Vice President and Executive Director
Susan Bass Roberts joined the Pohlad Family Foundation in 2016 as vice president, executive director. She has 20 years of experience in philanthropy, community relations and communications. Most recently, Susan served as executive director of the Best Buy Foundation in her role as senior director of community relations/diversity inclusion for Best Buy. Prior to that, she owned a boutique agency specializing in foundation management, community outreach and communications strategy for sports professionals. Previously, Bass Roberts was vice president of communications and community relations for the Atlanta Falcons Football Club in Atlanta, where she managed public relations, community relations and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation. She also worked as director of community affairs and philanthropy for Limited Brands, Inc.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations from The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. She has a long history of community involvement; she currently serves on the boards of the Twin Cities YWCA, Minnesota Council on Foundations and Breck School. She and her family reside in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
Courtney Cushing Kiernat- Senior Program Director
Courtney is the newest member of the Pohlad Family Foundation team. She most recently worked as Executive Director of External Partnerships for Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), where she developed and led the External Partnerships division including Community Engagement and Resource Development. Courtney has experience with systems change, strategic planning and project management that embraces community voice. In addition to her professional roles, she chaired the Minneapolis Public School referendum campaign (Strong Schools Strong City) in 2008 raising over $64 million annually for Minneapolis Public Schools. She also served on the Board of Directors for WomenWinning, Project Success and YWCA of Minneapolis. She currently serves on the Hennepin Health Foundation (HCMC) Board of Directors.
Courtney grew up in Minneapolis and Karachi, Pakistan; an opportunity in her teenage years that led to a passion for travel and social responsibility. She graduated from Bates College and earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children.
Brian Paulson- Program Officer
Brian joined the Pohlad Family Foundation in March 2014 with 15 years of experience in the social sector, serving children and families living in poverty through direct practice, developing and managing programs, and grantmaking. Brian has also been involved in a number of systems change efforts locally and nationally, including Minnesota Adult Career Pathways, Pay for Success financing models, and evidence-based policy. Brian holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and a Master’s degree from the University of Minnesota School of Social Work, with a concentration on Community Practice.
Misha Dashevsky- Grants Manager
Misha worked at a small nonprofit organization before joining the Pohlad Foundation, so he understands how hard staff at community organizations must work to achieve results, whatever their mission. He’s grateful for the opportunity to help enable the efforts of nonprofits in the Twin Cities, where he earned his BA with honors from the University of Minnesota in liberal arts. He oversees the Foundation’s cloud-based grants management portal and database and handles various communications duties.
Improving quality of life and opportunities for families most in need in the Twin Cities region.