PORTLAND, Ore. – Multnomah University is proud to announce the recipient of the 2015 Alumnus of the Year Award: Dave Munson, CEO of Saddleback Leather Company.
Munson began attending MU in 1992 after a mission trip inspired him to study the Bible like never before. “I wanted to do ministry the rest of my life, so I knew I needed more education,” he says. “I came to Multnomah because I was trying to be obedient.”
After graduating with a degree in Bible and Theology, Munson moved to Mexico and began teaching English. He looked everywhere for the perfect carry-on to hold his school books, but nothing fit his criteria. That’s when he collaborated with a local craftsman to design his first leather bag.
When the bag started receiving multiple compliments a day, a lightbulb turned on in Munson’s head. He scrimped and saved for more bags and then sold them — first out of his Land Cruiser, then via eBay, and now through Saddleback Leather Company, his thriving business that crafts high-quality luggage, wallets, backpacks and more.
“Even if I knew the path of my life back then…even if I knew that one day I’d own Saddleback, I would go to Multnomah again,” says Munson. “It was instilled in all of us there to be honest. There was a constant pounding on the drum for integrity.”
Munson hasn’t only applied those principles to his personal life — he’s built his entire business around them. Saddleback is committed to investing in its employees and cultivating a sustainable work environment for them. This fall, the company’s factory in Mexico will start providing free day care and school for employees’ children. Factory workers can also enroll in complimentary parenting classes, marriage seminars, counseling sessions and English courses.
Saddleback also shows its English teachers how they can respectfully share the gospel with employees. So far this year, 104 people have accepted Jesus in Munson’s factory. “This is not a business created for just financial motives,” he says. “If God had a factory, we think this is how he would run it.”
Michelle Underwood, Multnomah’s director of alumni relations, says Munson’s heart for serving his employees is one of the reasons he was selected as this year’s award recipient. “Dave is a graduate who has not only distinguished himself as a business owner, but has also demonstrated that his business is a ministry to his employees and customers,” she says. “His passion, drive, humility and generosity make him a wonderful selection for the 2015 Alumnus of the Year.”
Munson will be honored with the Alumnus of the Year award at 10 a.m. on September 7, 2015. All staff, faculty and students are welcome to attend the celebration. During the event, Munson will share more about his personal journey and business model.