Our Benefactor - Earl E. Bakken

Earl E. Bakken, M.D. Hon. C., etc. is a pioneer figure in the field of biomedical engineering, philanthropist, and health care visionary. He resides with his wife Doris in their “arboretum sanctuary” on the Kona coast. In 1949, he co-founded Medtronic, Inc., which is now the world’s leading medical technology company, providing lifelong solutions for people with chronic disease.

In 1957, he developed the first wearable, external, battery-powered, transistorized pacemaker for Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, a noted University of Minnesota heart surgeon. This small device catapulted Medtronic from a small electronic repair company housed in a garage in NE Minneapolis, to the industry leader which has grown to 85,000 employees in 140 countries with $20 billion in annual revenue for 2015– helping three people in the world with one of its therapies every one second.

In retirement, Dr. Bakken has become a notable Hawaii Island leader with his efforts to improve the health and wellness of its people. He participates with North Hawaii Community Hospital, Friends of the Future (Tutu’s House and Earl’s Garage), The Kohala Center, Na Kalai Waa, and the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, to name a few. Dr. Bakken also founded The Bakken Museum, a nonprofit museum, library, and education center, and the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting – both in Minneapolis – as ways to preserve history and get children interested in Science and Engineering careers.

In 2011, he created “A Manifesto for the Future of Hawaii Island”, which emphasizes three main objectives: to free Hawaii Island from dependence on oil, to use our Island’s natural and scientific resources as a classroom to further science and technology education for our children, and to continue to work toward making Hawaii Island a healthy place for all of its people to live sustainably.

Dr. Bakken has been given many honors in his illustrious lifetime, including the distinguished Russ Award from the National Academy of Engineering, and Living Treasure of Hawaii Award Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, and Alii 6th Degree Royal Order Kamehameha I. In addition to five Honorary Doctorates, he was bestowed an M.D. Honorary Causa degree from his alma mater, the University of Minnesota – the first one in its 160-year history.

Although officially retired from business in 1989, Earl remains active and vital as he continues to fill his life and others’ with challenge, vision, and inspiration.