IDEAL TOWNSHIP — Sitting on his porch with a scenic view of Pig Lake on the Whitefish Chain, Ed Egan feels right at home.
As well he should. Growing up in the Shakopee/Savage area, Egan would spend a few weeks every summer since he was a toddler visiting his grandparents’ rustic cabins on the lake property where he and his wife, Sara, built their home in 2006.
His grandparents, Fred and Anna Pond, owned a small farm along the Minnesota River south of the Twin Cities. Fred’s brother, Don Pond, owned a small farm on Butternut Point Road in Ideal Township and in 1949 when land across the road from him became available, he told his brother about it.
Fred and Anna Pond purchased the 24 acres of land with 600 feet of lakeshore on Pig Lake. Between 1950-51, Fred and Don Pond built two small cabins, using wood cut by hand on the property.
“By five years old, which is for as long as I can remember, I remember coming up here in the summer,” said Egan. “I have lots of fond memories playing in the woods and being in the water.”
The property was split between Fred and Anna Pond’s three children, so the Egans are surrounded by first cousins who vacation at their cabins located on both sides of his property. His brother, David Egan, built a home nearby, too.
Egan graduated from Burnsville High School then spent three-and-a-half years in the U.S. Navy. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. In 1991 he earned a master’s degree in financial and business management at the University of California in San Diego.
During his career he worked as an engineer and then eventually became a corporate executive at several technology-related corporations. He was working for Unisys in 1987 when he was transferred to their San Diego semiconductor facility as a product manager.
He and his wife, Sara, raised their two children, Sam Egan, 28, and Betsey Pepas, 30, in San Diego, where they both still live.
By 1998, Egan had joined Qualcomm Inc.’s CDMA technology organization as senior program manager, where he was responsible for coordinating the semiconductor fabrication, assembly and test of their CDMA mobile phone chipsets. In 2008 he became vice president of business operations and from 2006 until his retirement in 2008 at age 60, he was responsible for coordinating the acquisition and mergers of other companies under Qualcomm.
In October 2007 the Egans’ San Diego home was destroyed by wildfire. It was a devastating experience for them; they had hoped to split their time between San Diego and Ideal Township when Egan retired in January 2008. They decided not to rebuild and instead live on Pig Lake permanently. It was still a difficult loss. Their home was one of 25 homes in their residential area of about 75 homes that were destroyed. The houses that remained standing in their community had varying degrees of smoke and fire damage.
Egan wanted to return to the Whitefish Chain – and to Minnesota, where his family is an integral part of the state’s history.
Egan has a love of history, particularly Minnesota history, since his great-great-great-grandfather, Gideon Pond, is mentioned in many state history books.
Gideon Pond and his brother Samuel came to Minnesota from Connecticut in 1834 as missionaries to work with the Lakota Indians at Fort Snelling. He became so fluent in the Lakota language that he helped create the first Lakota/English dictionary.
Egan also reads as much Brainerd lakes area history as he can get his hands on, too. After he retired, he wanted to find a way to volunteer and became involved with the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association, or WAPOA.
Egan earned a Minnesota naturalist certificate and has spent the last three years as WAPOA’s director of natural resources.
His first project was a shoreland restoration project on O’Briens Point on Upper Whitefish Lake.
“Anything you do to help shorelines to become a better buffer, the cleaner you can keep the lake and the better the fishing is going to be,” Egan explained.
Egan worked closely with the DNR to plan and implement a walleye spawning habitat improvement project at Hay Creek last fall. The project involved placing 37,000 pounds of various-sized rocks in the creek, using a design that allows for a clean flow of water.
Egan said last spring when the DNR was working at the Pine River walleye egg-stripping station, they also checked in on Hay Creek during the spawning season and found walleye there. The rock may be helping.
“The walleye were going there before but now they have clear rock and the eggs will stick,” Egan said.
Egan said September will be his final year on the WAPOA board of directors. He’s stepping down to volunteer in another capacity.
He is a volunteer executive mentor through the Small Business Administration and a member of SCORE, a core of retired executives who will help business owners in the lakes area through the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp. He’s hoping to dedicate more hours to mentoring. His area of expertise is buying and selling companies and managing the challenge of rapid growth.
When Egan joined Qualcomm in 1998, the company, which makes the microchips in mobile phones, was newly formed and employed about a few hundred employees. Ten years later, the company employed about 4,500 workers, Egan said. The company went from very little in revenues to making over $6 billion a year during that time.
“It was the most amazing rapid growth you could imagine,” Egan said.
In 2009 Egan presented to a master’s class at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Developed Technology Leadership about his experiences in this high tech boom. Now he’d like to volunteer to help area business owners successfully navigate that wave of rapid growth, sharing the successes and failures he experienced himself.
“I’ve always been a helper, that’s my nature,” said Egan. “I enjoy helping people.”
Egan had hip replacement surgery in June and is in the final stages of mending. He keeps busy by walking and fishing occasionally and hopes to get some biking in this fall as his hip heals.