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Since his days as an Evans Scholar Caddie at Northland Country Club in Duluth, Minn., and after graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1979 through the Evans Scholars Program, Mendesh has continued to give back to the community that supported his college education.
As a successful executive at General Mills (he invented Cinnamon Toast Crunch), and while juggling other philanthropic and volunteer commitments, Mendesh has worked tirelessly to advance the Evans Scholarship Program for more than 40 years. He served on the Minnesota Evans Sholar Alumni Association, from 1980 to 1985, leading fundraising and scholar mentoring efforts. In 1993, he was elected director of the Western Golf Association, initiating local fundraising for the Evans Scholars through his home club, as well as other local and national WGA activities. During 2000-2001, he was co-chair of the Building Success Campaign, which raised in excess of $2 million to build a new home for the young men and women Evans Scholars on the University of Minnesota campus. In 2001 he was elected to the WGA Board of Governors, which is responsible for administering the Evans Scholars Program, and from 2001 to 2009, Mendesh was the WGA State Head responsible for supervising the Evans Scholars Program in Minnesota.
In 2016, he chaired the WGA Long Range Planning Committee and secured a pro bono commitment from Bain & Company, a global management and consultant company, to create the first strategic plan in the association’s history. The plan, 2030 Ambitions, includes goals to grow the program to 1500 scholars annually, increase diversity and assist scholars as they transition to careers. In 2018 Mendesh was elected to the WGA Evans Scholars Board of Trustees, which is responsible for the overall governance of the association.
His impact on the Evans Scholars Program is without precedent. Generous with his time and talents, Mendesh has steadfastly endeavored to improve the Evans Scholars experience for students and alumni alike. He has helped procure high level donors and has mentored young men and women caddies from the program helping them open doors to further their education and career opportunities. During the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing downturn in caddie loops, Mendesh worked to ensure that caddie programs thrived at Minnesota golf clubs. More recently, he helped bring an all-new program to provide caddie opportunities, including potential Evans Scholarships, for underserved young women in Minnesota called the Minnesota Caddie Academy, a Western Golf Association program.
In the words of Mendesh’s nomination submission, “it is impossible to estimate the number of lives positively influenced by a relationship with John.” John S. Mendesh truly embodies the spirit of the Warren J. Rebholz Distinguished Service Award.