Alumni Merit Award: Peter L. Frechette (KSM80)
In 1980, Pete Frechette was just another talented, ambitious graduate student mixing it up in a Kellogg School of Management study group. Four years later, he was leading a leveraged buyout of Patterson Companies — a large dental supply company.
Talk about a quick study.
“The buyout was accomplished by the management, and we then created an (employee stock ownership plan) that made all our employees owners, creating a real incentive,” recalls Frechette. “The broad-based Kellogg education was invaluable to getting these things done.”
Today, thanks in no small part to Frechette’s guidance, St. Paul-based Patterson — a company with roots in the Upper Midwest dating back to 1877 — is one of the nation’s largest specialty distributors of dental and companion-pet veterinary and rehabilitation supplies. The company reached $3.2 billion in sales in fiscal year 2010.
Frechette, who joined Patterson as its president and chief executive officer in 1982, was named chairman of the board in 1985 — a position he still holds. He retired as president in 2003 and CEO in 2005.
Throughout his tenure at Patterson, Frechette has not been shy about encouraging his senior staff to attend Kellogg. In fact, the company’s new president and chief executive officer is a 2009 graduate of the executive MBA program.
Like many Kellogg students who double as busy professionals, Frechette did not have much time to soak in his experience at Northwestern. But while he only attended classes on alternate Fridays and Saturdays, he fondly remembers his study group for the chance to interact with people with different viewpoints and find ways to reach a consensus.
“The MBA education coupled with day-to-day experience greatly accelerated my learning, my confidence, and my ability to manage more effectively at an earlier age,” he says. “It eliminated much of the trial-and-error process.”
Before attending Northwestern, Frechette earned an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin in 1961. He later worked for American Hospital Supply Corporation for 18 years, including seven as president of its scientific products division.
An active volunteer, Frechette has served as president of the American Dental Trade Association. He is a member of the Colonial Williamsburg President’s Council and the board of directors of the Vail Valley Foundation. He and his wife of 49 years, Patricia, also showed their support for Kellogg students by endowing a scholarship at the school.
Peter and Patricia reside in Minneapolis. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.