by Callie Wahl '05
In fall 1988, Kevin Zwart ’92 walked onto the Northwestern campus at the request of his father, a pastor, who wanted him to attend for at least one year to get a solid biblical foundation. The teenage Zwart obliged, but planned to transfer after his first year since the college did not offer his desired major in finance.
But during his freshman year, Zwart found himself wrestling with the choice of staying at Northwestern or transferring. As he evaluated his life’s direction, the answer became clear. “I decided that the education I was receiving at Northwestern was great, and I was in the environment that I wanted to be in, so I stayed,” Zwart said, adding, “and it didn’t hurt that I had met Heidi that year as well.” Heidi Port ’92 is now Zwart’s wife.
A relevant return on investment
Although confident in his decision to stay, Zwart decided not to give up on his dream of majoring in finance. He approached his faculty advisor and then-business department chair Chuck Kuivinen about developing a finance major at UNW. Kuivinen quickly embraced the suggestion and worked with his department—and even Zwart—to develop the curriculum that is now a part of Northwestern’s current finance major.
As one of UNW’s first two finance majors, Zwart graduated with the affirmation he had made the right decision. “Because the program at Northwestern was so new, I had to take some classes at the University of Minnesota,” he said, “and I didn’t find them to be exceptionally challenging. I was able to see what was going on at [both schools] and I saw very quickly that there was absolutely no academic disadvantage to attending Northwestern.
“You always hear people say that you have to go to the ‘right school’ or no one is going to hire you. But that’s not true,” Zwart emphasized. “Stepping into the business world, I was very well prepared.” Even pioneering his major, he noted, “I got to see a broad picture of a lot of different things—accounting, finance and marketing. I found that what I learned in the classroom was applicable in the real world."
Equipped for life and transitions
Immediately following graduation, Zwart accepted a new job at Minnesota Life/Minnesota Mutual in St. Paul, where he had worked for two years as a student. He earned an MBA in 1997 from the University of St. Thomas and in 1999 moved to a position with American Express Financial Advisors (now Ameriprise). In 2010, Ameriprise consolidated a division with another company and Zwart transitioned to a new role as equity trader with Columbia Management Group, and to a new city, Boston, with his wife and their sons Drew (14), Alex (13) and Kyle (8).
Looking back on his education, Zwart said, “If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely choose Northwestern. The business education that I received was great, but to be able to double major in finance and Bible, to be grounded in not only what I was learning, but also my faith and life skills—that has had a profound impact on my life in terms of my relationships and increasing my faith and my walk with the Lord.”