Fusion Board Feature: Tom Steichen
You’ve had quite the career in law, as well as working on various non-profit boards. What’s something you are most proud of in your career? What drives you to serve on these nonprofit boards?
“Being successful in many different environments” is what Tom is proud of, whether public or private organizations. Tom has worked at two larger successful law firms in Minneapolis, being partners in both those firms. His current role is Chief Compliance Officer at Colliers Securities, where he began as General Counsel, and where he hopes to spend the rest of his career. Lawyers may tend to stay with one law firm their whole career, Tom explained, but this has not been the case for him.
Why does he serve on nonprofit boards? “It’s easy for somebody in my position, as a lawyer… you deal with companies and individuals that are all successful, with big dollars… things can kind of get away from you if you don’t feel like you’re in the community helping others. Right now I’m on the 43rd floor of the Wells Fargo building looking over the Mississippi river, and it’s quite easy to sit up here and not really put your feet on the ground…” in helping others and utilizing his talents outside his company. “Social justice and helping people in need is really important to me.”
Did Tom always want to pursue law? When Tom attended Marquette, he knew he wanted to do something legal-related. During his second year in a Corporate Finance class, he was inspired by his professor to pursue that specific area. Following law school, Tom worked long hours at Briggs & Morgan, “working harder than I ever have. I didn’t mind it. I didn’t have a family at the time… There was one month I got to know my paperboy well, as I would come home at 3 or 4 in the morning.” (He’s glad he doesn’t follow this schedule anymore!)
As someone with a background in law and on different non-profit boards, what made you want to help lead Fusion Learning Partners?
Tom is good friends with Mike Sable, a current board member, and joining the Board seemed like a good fit. “The vision of helping others and making a difference in the community is something that I really wanted to do and be a part of. During this interesting time of only doing zoom meetings and not having interaction in a formal setting; it’s been difficult…” but he is optimistic in his future contributions.
From your current role and past experiences, what do you hope to bring to the ‘Fusion’ table? What experiences have inspired you to give back?
“New ideas. Rebranding is always a very hard thing to go through, and I’ve done it a couple other times with other entities… I’ve been through it. I hope to bring my legal skills to the table, whether it be on rebranding, new contracts, new vendor relationships, new client relationships, what-have-you.” Tom enjoys taking off his ‘legal hat’ when serving on these nonprofit boards.
“I think I’m a fairly easy person to talk to, and to try to bring across the vision of the entity. I’m happy to talk to people with fundraising or anything of that nature.”
Part of the mission statement of Fusion is to inspire innovation for the greater good… what does this mean to you, or why do you believe in this?
“If we all work together, hand-in-hand with the social justice theme, whether building a better community, a better organization, a better network, it’s beneficial to everybody. We all need to put our best efforts into making a difference. If we do this, the better off the whole organization will be.”
There are many critical issues our communities are facing right now, but if you had to pick one, which issue needs the most innovative thinking and why?
“Racial justice and inequality has come to a forefront.” Tom mentioned the Chauvin trial and the conflicts surrounding the Asian community and around women’s equality. “It’s time we really see some things being done. You have to applaud people like those in Major League Baseball, who pulled the All-Star game from Georgia because of the voting rights issue. People need to start making a stand and making a statement instead of just giving lip service to what’s going on. The business leaders and the city leaders and politicians need to step forward to make a plan to solve these inequalities.”
You’ve talked about the importance of social justice, and that your time at Marquette University is what helped lead you to understanding that importance – was there one particular class or professor at Marquette that supported your understanding, and were you involved in particular issue in any way?
“Marquette is a Jesuit school, and I think a Jesuit education is about social justice and everybody pitching in to make a better world for everybody, not just the elite or those who are wealthy…” Tom explained that many Jesuit schools are places in urban areas, in which students can see first-hand the inequities and injustices that exist in those communities.
“When I was a Marquette, I was able to work in a clinic where we would go into the public school system and did mentoring and tutoring with the younger children, and it was eye-opening.” Coming from a suburb of Minneapolis, Tom had never experienced not having resources. This mentoring experience demonstrated the importance of getting outside his comfort zone and being aware of those inequalities in the community.
Decades later, Tom tries to instill these values in his family. He and his wife frequently volunteer with their children, whether at homeless shelters or donating food and resources. “Some of these things were instilled in me 30 years ago.”
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Tom enjoys spending time with his three children, a Junior in high school, a Freshman in high school, and a 6th grader, whether he’s attending ballgames with his son, supporting his oldest daughter at her Irish dancing competitions, or going on walks with his youngest daughter. “Throughout the Pandemic, my daughter (6th grader) and I would walk around Minnehaha Parkway and she would collect rocks, then we would go home and she would paint them. Then, the next day she would put them on the Parkway, spreading her joy through the community,” as she would paint little sayings on the rocks such as ‘Stay Positive’ and ‘God loves you,’ etc. “She did over 3000 rocks during the Pandemic… That’s just one of those things that is an example of what spending time with my family looks like.”
Who is your celebrity crush and why?
“Dwayne Wade.” Wade is a retired professional basketball player who played for the Miami Heat, and someone who does a lot for his community as well, using his position to elevate topics such as standing behind the LGBTQ+ community. “He went to Marquette, and I’m a big basketball fan, and Marquette is a big basketball school. I’ve always followed his career; my wife thinks it’s a little weird… It might be a weird celebrity crush, but he’s somebody I’d love to someday have a beer with.”