MAPLE GROVE, Minn. — Kenneth L. Evenstad, founder of Upsher-Smith Laboratories and co-founder of Domaine Serene Vineyards & Winery, died at his home in Oregon, Oct. 21, 2020, having fought chronic pulmonary issues for the past five years. He was 77 years of age.
Evenstad was born July 9, 1943 in Baudette, Minn., a tiny town on the Canadian border. Though of meager means, his mother continually encouraged him to “be whatever he wanted to be.” He fully believed in and personified the American Dream. Convinced by the local pharmacist that he was “College worthy,” he put himself through school, earning his Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Minnesota in 1967. In April of the previous year he met the love of his life, Grace, on a blind date. They were married seven months later and have been partners in life, business, and philanthropy ever since.
Evenstad’s interest in chemistry and pharmacy drove him to revive an aged Company in the Minneapolis area, Upsher-Smith, in 1969. Scraping together all of their savings, he bought the company for $1,500. In the following 30 years he bootstrapped, led, and managed the fledgling company into a successful generic pharmaceutical business. Over the next 20 years he was Chairman of Upsher-Smith Laboratories partnering with his son, Mark as CEO. Innovative thinking, dedication to success, extraordinary ethics and long-term vision created over $1.5 billion in value. Ken was the inventor of numerous innovations and was awarded scores of patents for lifesaving drugs helping millions while creating thousands of high paying American jobs. Ken was recognized by Ernst & Young as their Entrepreneur of the Year in 2001. In 2012, Ken was awarded the University of Minnesota’s “Outstanding Achievement Award,” the highest award given to a graduate.
Evenstad leaves his wife of 53 years and true partner in everything, Grace; daughter, Serene; son, Mark; and six grandchildren, Miles, Henry, Sophie, Grace, Gunnar and Tor. He is also survived by brother, Glenn (Suzie); sister, Arlene (Bud); 10 nieces and nephews; and hundreds of friends.
Contributions in Evenstad’s memory may be made to ¡SALUD! c/o Tuality Healthcare Foundation.
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