Torchlight Spring 2013

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If you would like to support the College of Business Administration, contact John Power at (916) 278-6989 or Giving back is Gardemeyer's business W ork ethic has never been in short supply for Dennis Gardemeyer '71 (Business Administration), MBA, '74. Throw in a sound educational foundation at Sacramento State and hands-on experience in the business world and there was no stopping Gardemeyer from achieving more than he ever imagined. Gardemeyer started his first business—a fence-building company— with his brother when he was just 14. By the time he arrived at Sac State, he had more than five years of business experience and was working well over 40 hours a week managing a restaurant in Stockton. "At Sac State I took the first real business classes I had ever taken and it all made a great deal of sense to me," Gardemeyer says. "I started the Small Business Center and worked with many of my professors, consulting with businesses in the region. There's not really a day that goes by that I feel I don't benefit greatly from my time at Sac State." Gardemeyer supports his alma mater through scholarship programs, and by visiting the College of Business Administration regularly to talk to students and catch up with faculty. The Gardemeyers are also members of the Legacy Circle, a recognition program for donors who have included the University in their estate plans. "When we were able to, my wife (Denice) and I started providing scholarships and donating monies to the University, basically because I'm thankful for all they've done for me," Gardemeyer says. "Hopefully we can assist others who might be in a similar situation that I was in." Following graduation, Gardemeyer started a contracting business, primarily building residences and apartments. He moved on to establish a highly successful real estate development and construction firm, building subdivisions, apartments, office buildings, industrial parks and a wide array of public/private facilities such as police stations, fire stations, municipal office structures and even prisons. Gardemeyer, together with a group of investors, bought a farm in 1974, working on it in his "spare" time between his other ventures. Over the years, he, along with his primary farming partner Ed Zuckerman, bought out the other investors and acquired multiple other farms. Now on a platform of approximately 10,000 acres, they grow turf grass, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, wine grapes, olives and asparagus. "It's a very different type of business, but it's a field that I absolutely love," Gardemeyer says of agriculture. "It's basic stuff—working with the soil." Most recently, Gardemeyer teamed up again with his brother Charlie on a door and finish company. Heritage One Door and Building Solutions is now one of the largest pre-hung door, millwork and hardware suppliers in California. Gardemeyer usually commutes by plane—he earned his pilot's license in the early '80s—from his home in El Dorado Hills to meetings and business offices around the state. Even during off-hours, he rarely slows down. His "relaxing" vacations are usually spent on cycling tours, fly-fishing trips or skiing ventures. He says his childhood in crimeridden East Palo Alto created a yearning for success that continues to fuel his non-stop motor. "There were all kinds of motivating factors and one was hunger," Gardemeyer says. "I was living in a terrible environment, in the murder capital of the U.S., and I wanted something better for myself and my family. I was bound and determined to have more and do more. Education was one of the keys to opening the doors ahead of me." The Gardemeyers' support of Sac State has provided scholarships for numerous students over several decades and it's their expression of gratitude for the University's role in their lives, and in the community. "If it wasn't for an affordable CSU system and a few scholarships that I received, I likely wouldn't have been able to complete college back then," Gardemeyer says. "Denice isn't a grad of Sac State, but she has wholeheartedly supported our commitment." Sac State helped Gardemeyer channel his drive and energy to become one of the area's most successful businessmen. "The classes I took have given me the foundation for the career path I embarked upon," he says. "You can have all the tools, but if you don't choose to work hard, you may not get very far. Without the tools, you can work just as hard or harder and still not get very far. It's the combination of the right tools and the gumption to show up every day that ultimately produces success." So how does a man with an endless appetite for work deal with retirement? "I only work half-time now: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m." Dennis Gardemeyer, '71 (Business Administration), MBA '74 and his wife Denice Spring 2013 5

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