Archibald Granville (Archie) Bush was born on March 5, 1887 in Chippewa County just outside of Granite Falls. Archie’s family moved to a farm just into Renville County and he attended school in Granite Falls but only though the 8th Grade. He began working with his father on the farm and also did farm work for others but by age 21, he left for Duluth seeking work and some relief from the hay fever that farm work had brought him. He found a job there, at two dollars per day, helping with construction of shipping piers in the Duluth harbor. He had other plans however, and while working there he attended night classes in accounting at a business college. Finishing a six-month course in four months, he was referred to a new, small mining supply company that was in need of a bookkeeper.
The company, known as Minnesota Mining and Manufactur-ing, had a bright future but struggled for cash in those early days so Archie often accepted stock in the firm, in lieu of a paycheck. His career at the company, which became known as 3M after moving to St. Paul, advanced as he became a regional sales manager in Boston, then Chicago and advanced vice president of sales, overseeing tremendous growth in the company’s sales and profitability. He became senior vice-president and general manager and served for many years as chairman of the company’s executive committee.
His leadership, along with that of William McKnight, the founder of the McKnight Foundation, was a major reason for a company’s huge success. His ownership of 3M stock grew in numbers and value and provided a sizeable fortune in later years. While working in Chicago he met Edyth Bassler, a chorus girl and actress and they married in 1919. As his position at 3M grew, so did his investment in the company and his personal wealth. With no children of their own to inherit their $300 million estate, Archie and Edyth Bush established the Bush Foundation in 1953.
Over the next several decades, Archie, Edyth and the Foundation’s staff supported a range of initiatives from leadership development, education, healthcare, community problem solving and the arts. Archie Bush brought his philanthropy to his home town of Granite Falls beginning in the late 1950s when he was contacted by Granite Falls School Superintendent Milton Lindback about helping to bring industry and jobs to Granite Falls. Shortly after, Archie acquired for the community a 70-acre plot of land south of Highway 212 and west of Ninth Street. He made arrangements and paid for the land to be made suitable for building with rock removal and leveling. The site become known as the A.G. Bush Industrial Site and was dedicated on October 20, 1958 during a community-wide Archie Bush Appreciation Day.
With Archie’s business connections and some nudging, industrial development soon followed with the construction of the first of several phases of the Rogers Hydraulics building (now occupied by Specialty Systems) in 1960 and, in 1961, the construction of the first of several phases of the Plews Manufacturing building. These immediately employed several dozen people and soon expanded to employ a total of nearly 300. Also at Milton Lindback’s urging, Archie also got involved with the local effort to land a state college in Granite Falls in the early 1960s, offering $500,000 in scholarship funding if the state would locate a four-year college here.
When the state legislature decided to locate the proposed college in Marshall, Archie become a partner with the Granite Falls School District in establishing the Granite Falls Area Vocational and Technical Institute (now Minnesota West Community and Technical College). He offered $330,000 in matching funds from the Bush Foundation if the school district voters approved a like amount for building what would be the first phase of the new school, and the voters agreed. The school’s A.G. Bush Student Center building honors his legacy of generosity and dedication to vocational and technical training.
Archie Bush’s relationship with the local school district took many other turns as well, with the Bush Foundation providing the funding for scholarships for local high school graduates to attend Hamline University in St. Paul, graduate school scholarships to local school district teachers, industrial arts shop equipment, new band instruments and a new bus garage. The Bush Foundation’s dedication to Archie’s hometown also included funding for equipment and beds for the Granite Falls Municipal Hospital as well as a sizeable contribution to Project Turnabout’s expansion in 1999. That legacy of generosity has continued with the Bush Foundation’s $100,000 gift to the Yellow Medicine East School District in 2013, which marked the Foundation’s 60th anniversary.
The gift was used to construct a state-of-the-art greenhouse for science and agriculture classes. That Bush Foundation’s legacy of fondness for Archie Bush’s hometown continues now with a $200,000 grant to be used for a purpose of the community’s choosing, a $1 million endowment grant to the Granite Falls Area Community Foundation and the establishment of the Archie Bush Legacy Scholarship program which funds college scholarships and support for students graduating from Yellow Medicine East High School. Archie Bush’s legacy and generosity have certainly made an indelible mark on the Granite Falls area.