2023 Renaissance Award Recipient: Vern Anderson
The Beginning of Servant Leadership at Knute Nelson
Knute Nelson has always been firmly rooted in our identity as a faith-based organization. Nearly 15 years ago, senior leaders endeavored to incorporate servant leadership into our organization. The first call President & CEO Mark Anderson placed was to Vern Anderson. Vern generously met with key leaders and has been a tireless advocate of Knute Nelson and an instrumental force for our servant leadership journey. He helped us build the solid culture of servant leadership that Knute Nelson enjoys today.
Vern introduced us to key partners who would play a crucial role in helping build the structure of becoming a true servant leadership organization. Thanks to Vern’s introduction and encouragement, we have forged valuable and strong relationships with experts who have provided us with training, leadership, and guidance on our journey to becoming a servant leadership organization.
Crafting Strong Leaders
Nearly ten years ago, Knute Nelson created a signature 9-month course for a cohort of leaders within our organization, called Leadership Academy. Cohorts of around 15 employees go through this academy each year and learn everything from harnessing their own strengths, communication, how to best express themselves, and what it means to be a servant leader. Thanks to Vern’s introduction, Knute Nelson has been able to partner with Mark Deterding, an executive coach and servant leadership expert, as one of the key presenters in Leadership Academy. Servant leadership and Christian Heritage are much stronger at Knute Nelson, thanks to Vern.
Threshold Of Faith
In November 2020, Vern published a memoir titled Threshold of Faith. The book chronicles his path to success and fulfillment in his work and family life. From his beginnings growing up on his family’s farm in western Minnesota, to founding Douglas Machine with his cousin and brother in Alexandria, MN – it is always abundantly clear that both Vern and his wife Judy place gratitude and faith at the core of their lives. This way of being has translated into every relationship Vern and Judy have – whether with family, friends, or organizations where they give of their time, talent, and treasure.
A Heart of Generosity
Together, Vern and his wife Judy have been incredibly generous donors to the Knute Nelson Foundation, and are part of the Voss Giving Society – which honors donors who have made lifetime gifts of $10,000+ dollars to the Foundation. Vern and Judy supported the following key fundraising campaigns with leadership-level gifts: the Dimensions Capital Campaign that raised funds for the building of Grand Arbor, the Therapy Gym Campaign at the Short-Term Rehab Center, and the Chapel Capital Campaign at the Care Center.
Vern has given very generously of his time and talent as well, serving as a member of the Foundation Board of Directors from July 2012 to July 2022.
Vern truly exemplifies Knute Nelson’s values of Christian Heritage and Community Engagement, as he was always keen to help in any way he could – whether that was through offering advice, making connections within his vast network, giving a donation towards a needed project, or praying with someone in need.
"When you're passionate about something and you find an organization that shares those same values, it's fun to get involved."
About the Renaissance Award
In 2013, we established the Knute Nelson Renaissance Award to recognize an individual, or individuals, whose leadership and support has been instrumental to the organization. Recipients exemplify the mission and beliefs of Knute Nelson. They have endeavored through word and deed, in both their professional and personal lives, to be agents of social change, support aging services, and demonstrate philanthropy with their love for humankind and community. The Renaissance period was a time of rebirth – political, economic, religious, artistic, and intellectual. Like that era, this award represents the diversity of interests and the goal of social change within the context and values of the Knute Nelson organization.
Meet the Author
Serving as the Executive Director of the Knute Nelson Foundation, Emily Geris is a dedicated professional with a mission to make a difference. A 2014 graduate of Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN, she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Creative Writing. With a decade of experience in the fundraising field, Geris has empowered nonprofit organizations to raise essential funds, foster meaningful connections with generous supporters, and fulfill their vital missions. Her passion extends from a personal connection to Knute Nelson, where several of her family members have received care during their times of need. Every day, she’s inspired by grateful donors who share stories of the exceptional care they or their loved ones have experienced at Knute Nelson. Beyond her professional life, Geris enjoys adventures with her family, playing with her cats, travelling, and writing. Geris’ commitment to philanthropy serves a meaningful impact to the Knute Nelson Foundation.