St. Anthony: Retired Twin Cities investment manager knew how to make a difference

Peter Heegaard, in partnership with his wife, Anne, gave retirement and money a good name.

Armed with an Ivy League MBA, Heegaard, who died this month at 85, founded and led the high-end wealth management business for a decade at Norwest Corp. before retiring in 1996 at age 60.

Heegaard also invested in the have-nots, particularly in his chapter on retirement. The coalitions he’s joined — or formed — and the Twin Cities neighborhoods he’s helped are better for his job.

He didn’t just donate money, he used his “connections, communications and cache” to bring together nonprofits, donors and people in need, said Sondra Samuels, chief executive. from the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), which works with partner schools, non-profit organizations. and others to help families bridge opportunity and income gaps to break generational poverty.

“Peter was meeting some of our families. And he was bringing these young bankers and his friends to learn about us. And meeting people whose homes had been knocked down or foreclosed. He saw the damage and listened to people who wanted to do better.” she said. “And that connectivity is key. And how we need to disrupt lifestyles…so we can help people change their lives.”

Peter and Anne Heegaard also helped Samuels replace federal “empowerment zone” seed capital of about $28 million a decade ago with $35 million in private capital as part of a multi-year effort concluded in 2021.

While their philanthropic work intensified during retirement, it began long before, said Anne Heegaard, Peter’s wife of 63 years.

Their Presbyterian minister in the early 1960s recruited them to serve women in a correctional society in Hennepin County, she said. In the 1970s, they helped house refugees from Central America.

“We started playing [the Whist card game] with ‘ladies of the night’ at the hospice and ended up [befriending] some of them and help solve their problems, and sometimes trainings and jobs,” she said.

“We have always appreciated people of different ethnicities and backgrounds,” she said. “We had similar interests and a passion for people who wanted to give and for people who were down on their luck and needed a helping hand.”

The couple hosted gatherings with a guest list that included both affluent and low-income people. More than one wealthy donor has confessed that it was the Heegaards who inspired them to get involved, beyond writing a check. And he analyzed and adopted successful nonprofits such as NAZ, housing and career developer Project for Pride in Living, Neighborhood Development Center and many others.

“Peter has helped a lot of people make money during his career in investment management,” said Joe Selvaggio, a retired nonprofit executive and friend of Heegaard. “He was a pragmatic businessman with selfless bones…who believed in investing in the poor and their communities and creating opportunity.”

The Heegaards have a cabin near Lutsen, a retreat from working and volunteering. But they never went on an ocean cruise and could never be away from work for too long, paid or unpaid.

They traveled to El Salvador, Nicaragua and elsewhere in the 1980s – making some of the trips through the Center for Global Education and Experience at the University of Augsburg – to learn from poor people and political dissidents in dictatorial societies.

Peter Heegaard started Urban Education Seminars for business and finance professionals in 1997. He called the street education and engagement sessions “the urban adventure”.

Most registered professionals had little knowledge of poverty and marginal neighborhoods. Heegaard encouraged investors to work with leaders of nonprofit organizations and foundations, as well as local governments, on economic development, training and self-sufficiency initiatives. An example: the Phillips Neighborhood Partnership which has created thousands of jobs, homeownership programs, the redevelopment of the abandoned Sears building on East Lake Street and the revival of small businesses.

This type of work has also proven critical to the economic growth of the Twin Cities, as minority businesses and employment have outpaced overall labor market growth over the past 20 years.

“Peter’s passion was to persuade people that there was an undervalued market in certain neighborhoods,” said Mike Christenson, who partnered with Heegaard when Christenson served in the economic development and health departments. Minneapolis and Hennepin County workforce.

“Peter was right,” Christenson said. “The first business loan can be from a non-profit organization, then the second loan for an expansion or a second small restaurant can be from a bank. … Peter has set things in motion.”

In 2019, Heegaard’s Urban Adventure program, renamed “Urban Investment”, found a permanent home at the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship in Augsburg, where students and professionals now work together on projects.

Heegaard wrote three accessible anecdotal books in retirement. The first was a dozen social entrepreneurs. The second helped donors use cost-benefit analysis to get more for their philanthropic dollars.

The latest, in 2015, was “Turnabout”, stories of people Heegaard befriended who went from a life of underachievement and addiction to self-sufficiency. And the lessons we can learn from it.

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