Stephen Shank
Stephen Shank
Founder, Capella Education

 
Stephen Shank founded Capella Education Company, the parent company of Capella University, in 1991, and served as CEO of the company until his 2009 retirement. He remains on the company’s board of directors. Shank is also co-founder and a director of the Shank Institute for Innovative Learning.  Prior to founding Capella, Shank served for 12 years as chairman and chief executive officer of Tonka Corporation. During this time, The Wall Street Transcript twice recognized Shank as the industry’s most outstanding chief executive officer. Shank began his career as an attorney with the Minneapolis law firm of Dorsey & Whitney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Iowa, a Master of Arts from The Fletcher School, a joint program of Tufts and Harvard universities, and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.

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QThere aren't a lot of lawyers who succeed brilliantly as entrepreneurs.

AI started out practicing law, and then at a fairly young age became CEO of Tonka Corporation, and then later started Capella.

QSo how do you have management DNA in you?

AI am primarily oriented toward working with people and seeing ideas from start through completion. Those two things are probably not primary or positive attributes of a lawyer. A lawyer's job tends to be advisory and involves working with factual analysis and argument.

QWere your parents entrepreneurs?

AThey were extremely risk averse and non-entrepreneurial. My father was an executive with the Ethyl Corporation, which made the dreaded lead for leaded gas, and my mother had been a schoolteacher.

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