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Friday, July 1, 2022

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Mark and Debbie Lindner Mark and Debbie Lindner

Branding a Winner

Mark and Debbie Lindner’s gift fortifies SDSU’s long-term vision for the Fowler College of Business.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

“We can see that SDSU is creating a better environment in San Diego for the business community while providing a great education for students.”

Mark Lindner has done a lot of thinking over the years about his personal brand. What characteristics did he want friends and business colleagues to associate with his name? Which brand identity would best reflect his innovative spirit and creative disposition?

The brand Lindner believes best represents him is Amazon because “it’s always looking to adapt and innovate as the market dictates," he said. "This has been my role in the companies I have worked for and with; to anticipate where the business is going and design structures, systems and strategies to adapt to the changing environment.”

Boy Scout reputation

Professionally, Lindner guides MillerCoors (Pennsylvania) through the ever-shifting beverage market environment as general manager. Branding is a sideline, but a serious one. He has lectured on the subject to corporate audiences and to student and staff groups at San Diego State University.

During his presentations, Lindner speaks about the importance of integrity in personal branding. He recalls an incident at his workplace years ago that cast doubt on the actions of several employees. Lindner himself was immediately exonerated, but “the episode started me thinking about how I was perceived by the people I worked with. My Boy Scout reputation served me well.”

The long-term vision

Lindner commutes between Pittsburgh and San Diego, where he and his wife maintain their primary residence. Debbie Lindner—whose brand self-identification, IBM’s Watson, reflects her curiosity and a talent for staying ahead of what’s trending—is an event planner and also works for a lobbying firm.

The couple came to know SDSU not as alumni, but as local residents and supporters, and in that spirit, they made a significant gift to endow the Mark and Debbie Lindner Business Leadership Scholarships and the Mark and Debbie Lindner Intern Leadership Scholarships in the Fowler College of Business.

“Mark and Debbie truly appreciate the impact of transformational experiences on student success,” said Mary Ruth Carleton, vice president for University Relations and Development. “Their gift will provide financial support as Fowler College students acquire the essential, on-the-job training that will help them secure jobs after graduation.”

Importance of mentoring

Lindner said donors are inclined to create endowments when they are convinced that the university’s vision will advance the greater good.

“After meeting with the leaders of SDSU,” he said, “Debbie and I understand the long-term vision. We can see that SDSU is creating a better environment in San Diego for the business community while providing a great education for students.”

Another significant factor in the Lindner’s decision to support SDSU was Mark’s long association with Ron Fowler, for whom the Fowler College is named. Lindner was executive vice president and general manager for Fowler’s Mesa Distributing Company, Inc., for nearly 10 years and considers Fowler a mentor.

In 2016, Fowler and his wife, Alexis, made a $25 million gift to support scholarships, internships and programs for SDSU’s business students. It was the largest gift of The Campaign for SDSU, which raised $815 million dollars for SDSU over 10 years.

“Knowing that my mentor believes so strongly in SDSU and is willing to make that kind of commitment—it gave me a greater incentive,” Lindner said.