UND's Resident Entrepreneur Bruce Gjovig Bids Farewell
Center for Innovation founder retiring but says he'll remain close.
When Bruce Gjovig launched UND’s Center for Innovation in 1984, he did his work from a closet.
“They cleaned out a chemical storage closet, put in a World War II edition desk, and gave me a wobbly chair that a faculty member rejected, and that’s how I started the Center,” Gjovig said.
Two buildings and 33 years later—entrepreneurial coach, leader and student mentor Gjovig is retiring.
“I think of it more as graduation,” he said, with a laugh. “It’s just a chance to do something else.”
Setting a foundation
Gjovig’s list of achievements while working at UND is endless.
One of his greatest? Launching and becoming the CEO of the Center for Innovation and Foundation, which focuses on students and business startups in their journey through innovation, entrepreneurship and securing entrepreneur capital.
Gjovig said he received great advice from Dwight Baumann, a native of Ashley, N.D., and graduate of North Dakota State in Fargo, who started teaching entrepreneurship classes at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the late 1950s and launched an entrepreneur program at Carnegie Mellon University in the 1970s. Bauman strongly recommended the formation of a nonprofit foundation to attract funding and supportive entrepreneurial leadership and to serve as a catalyst for change.
Bauman told Gjovig the natural enemy of innovation and entrepreneurship is bureaucracy, and that universities will embrace innovation only with strong catalysts from outside.
Former UND President Tom Clifford, who led the University when Gjovig was getting started, agreed.
Retired but not done
At UND, the Foundation has helped raise more than $34 million and attracted entrepreneurial trustees and benefactors to help build the Center for Innovation and the UND College of Business & Public Administration’s (CoBPA) School of Entrepreneurship. The Foundation is the platform and vehicle for future international success, both for the Center and the UND CoBPA’s School of Entrepreneurship, he said.
Though Gjovig has a lot to miss once he “graduates,” when asked what he will miss most, Gjovig’s answer was simple: the students.
“I think the two most empowering forces in the world are education and entrepreneurship because it unleashes a person’s potential to do what they want to do to reach their full potential,” Gjovig said. “Of those two, entrepreneurship unleashes the most potential because what it does is empowers people to do what they want to do in terms of building, creating, doing a venture and getting a new idea to market.”
Though now retired, Gjovig says he certainly won’t be gone.
“I’m going to be doing some consulting and working with things like Grand Sky because I love to build and I love to do things that have meaning in my life—and that meaning is usually with startups and students,” he said.
Gjovig said he is leaving the Center for Innovation and Foundation in good hands—with people who will guide young entrepreneurs and startups in the right direction for years to come.
“There are a lot of people in this world who say ‘it can’t be done,’” said Gjovig, “so there needs to be somebody who says, ‘yes you can do it, and let’s find the path.’”