Tom Bartels Brews Something Special as He Receives the Business Leader of the Year Award By Mary Poe and Tammy Tragis-McCook

Tom Bartels accepts the UAF Business Leader of the Year award from student co-chairs Aiyana Fragoso (left) and Jasen Chausse (right). Photo by Sara Lewis.

The UAF Business Leader of the Year (BLOY) dinner and award ceremony is more than a recognition ceremony and a dinner. Just one of the many distinguishing factors that make BLOY stand out is the participation of UAF students from beginning to end. Students are part of the selection process, volunteer in event management, attend the ceremony and lastly contribute to the post-event evaluations.

Tom Bartels, owner and CEO of North Pole Coffee Roasting Co. was selected this year as the 2023 awardee by students, community leaders and past BLOY recipients. Immediately, Tom reached out to the CBSM team asking how he could be involved with the students along the way as planning started for his big day. The connections began before the semester even started with a lunch in the summer allowing a chance for Tom, and his wife Janet, a chance to meet the students in the BLOY committee.

“It was humbling enough to be nominated, and yet to be chosen, is just beyond words. To be live in a community where we are blessed to have so many great leaders and examples is truly an honor. This is more than an award for me; it takes a vast team to be successful including my wife, family, co-workers and all the people with whom I was blessed to come in contact with along the way. There are so many elements, struggles, relationships, and decisions, good and bad, that you make along the way that define your story. I want to be a role model for the UAF students getting involved and helping them along their journey.” - Tom Bartels, 2023 BLOY Recipient and owner of North Pole Coffee

Tom poses for a photo at North Pole Coffee after students told him he was the 2023 BLOY recipient. Photo by Morrow Duszynski.

Tom found his flat doppelganger at the Usibelli Coal Mine photobooth. Photo by Beyond the Box.

Once the fall semester began, Tom’s next interaction was as a participant in the CBSM Etiquette Seminar. This opportunity allows students and community leaders to learn etiquette, gain real-life tips from industry experts, and get the chance to connect one-on-one during the rapid-speed round. The participants immediately put what they learned into practice with a dinner that follows.

(Top Left) Tom proudly stands with CBSM Dean Carlson and CBSM students after hearing he was selected as the Business Leader of the Year. Photo by Morrow Duszynski. (Top Right) Tom and his daughter Tana (UAF MBA alumna) speak to the UAF Principles of Marketing class. Photo by Tammy Tragis-McCook (Bottom Left) UAF student attendees enjoy a moment before the BLOY event begins. Photo by Sarah Lewis with background added by Morrow Duszynski. (Bottom Right) Tom and several CBSM students strike a pose at the Usibelli Coal Mine photobooth. Photos by Beyond the Box.

Throughout the semester, Tom spoke to a handful of classes and clubs to address topics such as marketing, accounting and entrepreneurship. Almost every time, Tom and his team would take the time to set up a North Pole Coffee station in the classroom to share hot beverages and snacks. It was yet another glimpse into the generosity and thoughtfulness of Tom, which seems to align with why he is so successful.

It is a longstanding tradition for the BLOY recipient to host a dinner with the students so those who have yet to meet the recipient may do so as the event planning ramps up. These dinners help the students to make connections and create the vision that will make the year’s event unique to the recipient. Tom and his wife, Janet, hosted their dinner at the North Pole Coffee retail space for the CBSM student students and staff to show their appreciation and to get to know the students. Employees from North Pole Coffee were also in attendance.

Tom and his wife Janet extended their warmth by treating us to a catered dinner at North Pole Coffee. What stood out to me the most from that evening was the glimpse into Tom's compassion and unassuming nature. Particularly, it was the way he treated his employees that left a lasting impression on me. His leadership style is defined by genuine care and respect, treating his team not just as colleagues but as an extended family. This experience was a valuable example of the kind of leadership I aspire to embody in the future. - Jasen Chausse, 2023 BLOY Co-Chair and MBA Student

On Saturday, November 18th the big day arrived. Almost 300 community leaders, university administrators and students gathered at the Westmark Hotel to acknowledge Tom and to support CBSM. By the end of the night, the community heard several tales of Tom’s leadership and then showed their generosity for CBSM with gifts culminating in $107,000 through ticket sales, sponsorships, raffle and fundraising. These funds support student organizations, development and scholarships.

Being of a generous nature, Tom had many things he wanted to say to express his gratitude for those who have helped him to succeed. In this video played at the event, Tom takes the time to express his appreciation for those who have him a hand

Previous to BLOY, I had only known Tom as a successful businessman who knew how to make a great vanilla latte. However, it didn't take long for me to understand why he was chosen as the Business Leader of the Year. Tom is not only brilliant but also incredibly humble. He shared a bit about himself during a lunch with students this summer, but he was more interested in hearing from us, a rare quality in people with rather demanding schedules. His genuine care for us was evident, he even individually emailed each person at that lunch to express his gratitude for our time, although his time is unquestionably more valuable. The BLOY event embodies all the qualities that CBSM instills in its students. Tom, your example and the values you represent are truly inspiring. Thank you. Jasen Chausse - MBA Student and BLOY Co-Chair
As I reflect on the invaluable lessons gleaned from my participation in BLOY, as well as the guidance of Alaska's influential leaders, I have noticed a remarkable transformation in my ability to communicate effectively and present myself confidently, especially in the company of community leaders. I am on a path to becoming an influential business leader myself, with the aspiration of someday receiving an award, much like Tom is tonight. My ultimate goal is to reinvest and contribute to the community that has played an integral role in shaping me. To Tom, thank you for everything that you have done for CBSM, UAF, the community, and also for me. Baasee’ - Aiyana Fragoso, UAF student and BLOY Co-Chair

Tom chatting with CBSM students before the dinner he and his wife Janet hosted. Photo by Jillian Bjornstad.

We are grateful for the opportunity to honor Tom as our 2023 UAF Business Leader of the Year and for the impact he has had on our students. We hope that his story will continue to inspire and motivate others to lead by example and make a positive difference in the world around them. Let us all strive towards being aspirational leaders, just like Tom Bartels.