Business degree programs at Lincoln College are being consolidated under the new “MacKinnon School of Business,” in honor of 1960 graduate Alexander “Sandy” MacKinnon.
The announcement was made by Lincoln College President David Gerlach at a special ceremony on Friday, Sept. 28. Both MacKinnon and his wife, Sandy, were in Lincoln for the announcement, which included unveiling a plaque designating the naming of the MacKinnon School of Business.
The plaque is displayed in a special section of Lincoln College’s Gehlbach Hall, which will house the business school. A section of the building will be set aside as a collaborative work space for business students, with large screen televisions installed so that students can monitor stock markets and business news.
“I can’t think of a better role model for our business students,” Gerlach said. “In the early 1980s, he took over a business that had gone bankrupt not once, but twice, and turned it into one of the most successful heavy equipment dealerships in the country. Along the way, he earned a reputation for integrity that led to numerous honors for business ethics and leadership.”
Giving the Lincoln College business programs a clear identity will help the college develop a single brand for its business bachelor’s degree options that will help foster growth and further enhance the prestige of its business programs, Gerlach said.
Earlier this year, Lincoln College awarded MacKinnon an honorary doctorate for his outstanding contributions to his profession. He was the College’s commencement speaker this year and while on campus, he agreed to participate in the Lincoln College Excellence in Leadership series, offering advice and insights from his business career.
MacKinnon has long been a supporter of Lincoln College, which he credits with helping him turn around his life and set him on a path to success. In 2007, MacKinnon provided a surprise gift of $100,000 to support the fundraising campaign to build the Lincoln Center. In 2014, he made a multi-year commitment for a $250,000 endowment which will provide $12,500 in scholarship assistance in perpetuity.
In late June, MacKinnon announced a $1 million unrestricted contribution to further Lincoln College’s mission.
Gerlach noted that MacKinnon succeeded in business despite challenging odds stacked against him. He was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) at a time when the learning disability was little known and few treatments existed. His high school advisor once suggested that he might be the first senior class president to fail to graduate. While Sandy was in his teens his father died unexpectedly, throwing his own future into doubt.
MacKinnon spent most of his career working for and with Yale, the manufacturer of fork lifts and other heavy equipment that is now Hyster-Yale Materials Handling, Inc.
In 1982, MacKinnon realized his dream of owning his own Yale dealership when a dealership in Tampa, Florida, became available. It was a troubled dealership that had gone bankrupt and had a negative net worth of $1 million. In many ways, it was the worst possible time to take over the business. It was the early 1980s and the national economy was deep in the midst of one of the worst recessions in history.
“There were a lot of times where I felt I was either crazy or stupid, and maybe both,” MacKinnon says.
MacKinnon set about restoring the dealership’s reputation, personally calling on its customers with a simple request: “Give us one more chance.” He visited disgruntled customers, apologized for the past, asked them what had gone wrong and how he could make it right.
That ethical, customer-focused approach has guided MacKinnon for decades, helped him build the once troubled dealerships into one of the most successful in the Southeast, and earned him a well-deserved reputation for business integrity.
When asked which of his many awards he is most proud of, he chooses two that exemplify strong character traits.
One is the H.L. Culbreath, Jr., profile in leadership award selected by the Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the other is the 2013 Tampa Bay Ethics Award, presented by the University of Tampa Center for Ethics. MacKinnon sees his own success as a testimonial to the combined power of education and the free market system.
Without Lincoln College, he says he might have spent his life working at a dead end job instead of pursuing his dreams. He adds, that in his view, leaders aren’t born, instead they come about through lots of great coaching from mentors.
Mentorships and ethical training will be key components of the new MacKinnon School of Business, Gerlach said, with the school offering opportunities for students to benefit from real world exercises and training. Initially, the program will encompass the Lincoln College Lincoln Campus and ABE (Accelerated Bridge to Education) bachelor’s degrees in Business Management, Sport Management, Organizational Leadership, Supply Chain and Logistics Management, and Entrepreneurship. This fall, Lincoln College added a four-year bachelor’s degree program in Organizational Leadership to its Lincoln campus. As additional business programs are added in the coming years, including business-related master’s degree programs, they will be folded into the MacKinnon School of Business.