||Laird Koldyke '89
Profile: Laird Koldyke '89
of his family's seventh-generation company, Laird Koldyke
'89 works to perpetuate a legacy
by Deborah Leigh Wood
day he's managing director of Kip-Reese-Koldyke, a Chicago-based
private equity and advisory services firm.
night and on weekends he's chairman of the board at the Laird
Norton Company, a financial services and building products
distribution company. The seventh-generation, family-owned
firm is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
Koldyke '89, a fifth-generation member, says he finds being
chairman gratifying, but is quick to note that he doesn't
run either of the company's enterprises.
turn that over to outside management," he says. "My
responsibility is to keep our family together and maintain
the Laird Norton way of doing business."
remind him of this commitment, a large, labyrinthine family
tree hangs in Koldyke's office. At the top are William Harris
Laird, and brothers Matthew George Norton and James Laird
Norton, who founded Laird Norton in 1855 in Winona, Minn.
Since then, the company has expanded to include ventures in
building-supply distribution, wealth-management and trust
services, and several philanthropic foundations.
chairman, Koldyke is responsible for appointing CEOs and recruiting
board members to Laird Norton's various companies, which are
located mostly in the Pacific Northwest and employ a total
of 11,000. It's a job he's well suited for, says John
Ward, clinical professor of family enterprise and co-director
of the Kellogg School's Center
for Family Enterprises.
is a gifted leader who appreciates the special challenge of
linking a rich culture of well-established traditions with
fresh vision and strategies for the future," Ward says.
says his biggest challenge as chair is maintaining family
confidence in the business. That includes preserving family
legacy and nurturing existing pride in the 335 members who
make up the fourth to seventh generations, which include Koldyke's
wife, Dede '92, and their children Carleton, Winona, Prentiss
addition to a password-protected family Web site, there's
Woodstock, the Journal
of the Laird Norton Family. The quarterly newsletter is filled
with business-related items, news of philanthropic ventures,
accounts of births, weddings and vacations, and even essays
and poetry by younger family members.
Norton family pride peaks every summer at a four-day retreat
and business meeting held at a resort in the Pacific Northwest.
Held since 1995, the event's thrust is educating future leaders,
members under age 14 attend Camp Three Tree, where we 'inculcate'
them with family harmony and a sense of allegiance and alliance
to the business and to each other," he explains.
14 and older are required to attend the annual meeting, "so
they get a sense of where their peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches
come from," Koldyke says with a smile.
Norton pride is nowhere more evident than in Sixth Sense,
a group of 100 sixth-generation cousins who rallied themselves
in 1999 after attending the yearly retreats.
came to the retreat and said, 'We'd like a voice,'" Koldyke
says. "They wanted the philanthropic responsibility and
have created a community service project each year, always
hands-on, such as rebuilding hiking trails or working with
other community-based outreach centers."
and social responsibility seem to be the glue that holds the
family together, he says.
his part, Koldyke is a founding member of the Springboard
Organization, which seeks to improve Chicago's economically
challenged neighborhoods, and the San Miguel School, which
aims to provide innovative education to underprivileged children
is a former trustee of Northwestern University and says he
looks forward to "more years of active involvement with
NU." For the Chicago native, it's one more way of strengthening