Class of '94
President & CEO of Graham Tire Company
David Mickelson, Class of ’94, is President and CEO of the Graham Tire Company, one of the largest independently-owned tire dealerships in the U.S.
David is the first to admit that his decision to leave a successful career in banking to work in automobile services was a surprise, and a risk. His decision to attend Black Hills State University was also surprising and perhaps a bit risky since he was breaking family tradition, but it was also essential to his success. According to David, there had been 96 years of Mickelson family attendees at a state university a little closer to home in Vermillion. But BHSU, says David, was a much better fit for him.
“When I visited my senior year of high school, BHSU was different than other campuses I’d visited,” said David. “I toured campus after holiday break, in the winter with its gorgeous setting, and it felt right for me.”
David played on the Yellow Jacket football team offensive line under Coach Ed Neibauer, whom David says he greatly respected, while pursuing a major in business administration.
Academically, David said he’ll never forget his Business Policies class with his advisor, Fred Heidrich.
“He wasn’t known as an easy professor, but he prepared you. You don’t realize until you’ve been in the workforce for many years how much those business classes actually prepare you,” said David.
After graduation, David took a job as a third shift bank operations manager with Norwest Bank in Denver.
“That was a very eye-opening experience for a 22-year-old kid from South Dakota, working in downtown Denver from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m.,” said David.
David then moved with the company to Minneapolis where his team was in charge of managing customer service for 50 of the bank’s largest business customers. Next, David returned to South Dakota to work for First Premier Bank in Sioux Falls where he ultimately ran all bank operations before joining Graham Tire.
When people ask about the differences in the banking and automotive industries, David’s answer is that they’re more alike than we might think.
“Both industries are about relationships and people, how we work with each other, our vendors, and our customers,” said David.
David says his next big goal is to help Graham Tire continue its growth, maintaining over 50 years of the company’s success while advancing opportunities for the future. With his business education from BHSU, it’s a mission for which he’s well-equipped.
“My education and experiences at BHSU prepared me for any workplace environment,” said David.