2015 South Central College Outstanding Alumni Named
Faribault Campus Honoree Mike Gramse and North Mankato Campus Honorees Jan and Jim Downs
(May 11, 2015) Three southern Minnesota business owners have been named 2015 Outstanding Alumni for South Central College (SCC). The recipient of the Faribault Campus Outstanding Alumni Award is Mike Gramse, owner of MRG Tool & Die and co-owner of Glass Aggregate Systems, both located in Faribault. The North Mankato Campus Outstanding Alumni are Jan and Jim Downs, owners of Quest Marketing and Pagliai’s Pizza in Mankato, Nakato Bar & Grill in North Mankato and Ink Apparel in New Ulm. The three will be honored at South Central College’s Graduation Ceremony on Thursday, May 14 at 6:00 p.m.
Mike Gramse graduated from Faribault Technical College, which is today South Central College, in 1968. He says the “Tool & Die” program gave him the basic knowledge in the trade and the confidence to perform in the workforce. He entered the Navy as a machinist and worked for a couple of companies before starting his own business, MRG Tool & Die, in 1979. He is a longtime active member of the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association, serving as the organization’s president from 2009 - 2010. In 2012, MRG Tool & Die was named Small Manufacturer of the Year by Minnesota Business Magazine, an acknowledgement by the industry of all the company has accomplished. Mike has maintained a strong connection to South Central College, serving on the college’s Faribault Campus Foundation board for more than 20 years. He also supports workforce development through his service on advisory boards, welcoming tour groups, speaking to students and providing equipment or materials for classroom training projects. Mike and his wife Eva have raised five children, four who remain involved in the business today.
Jan and Jim Downs both graduated from South Central College when it was called Mankato Vocational School. Jan graduated from the Office Technology program (then known as Secretarial) in 1976 and Jim graduated from the college’s Sales & Marketing program in 1977. Both agree they have used the skills learned at South Central College throughout their careers. Jan and Jim both had experience working at promotional items businesses, when they started Downs Incentives/Promotion Works in 1985, which they later sold to pursue other career opportunities. In 1997, the couple once again started their own promotions business - Quest Marketing, which they still own today, along with Ink Apparel in New Ulm. In 2001, they became the third owners of Pagliai’s Pizza, which at the time had been in Mankato for more than 30 years. In 2012 they purchased another iconic restaurant, Bobby Joe’s Pub in North Mankato, and changed its name to NaKato Bar & Grill, the restaurant’s original moniker when it was established in 1948. The historical significance and legacy of these restaurants and the responsibility they hold as owners is important to Jan and Jim, and they are passing this ideal on to their sons – Jake and Joel, who will take over the restaurants when their parents someday retire.