My Southwest Story

Pictured above: Tom Sahlstrom (right) next to his wife, Cindy, sons Drew and Kyle, and their significant others.

-Thomas Sahlstrom '83


Tom Sahlstrom’s career survey results at Waseca High School in 1979 pointed to “Park Ranger.”  Instead, Tom invested in a liberal arts degree in Hotel Administration from Southwest Minnesota State University, equipping him with technical and transferable skills that have taken him around the United States the past 30 years.

Time management was crucial as Tom joined the Student Hospitality Organization (SHO) club, which provided hotel industry opportunities outside the classroom. He also played football for one year under Coach Gary Buer.  Tom was hired as a Resident Assistant his junior year, first assigned to Titan, then later assigned to Clapper.

His college friend invited him to head to Dallas after graduation.  Upon arrival, he stopped along the freeway, at the Summit Hotel, and inquired about a job.  They offered him a desk clerk job.  He needed the money, so he took the job.


With aspirations to move on, a friend’s spouse connected him to the Four Seasons in Dallas.  Two months after an informational interview, Tom landed a night manager position. Within 2 years time, Tom joined the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, CA. That was the beginning of his career and they continued to be moved nine times in the next ten years, moving up the ladder to Executive Hotel Manager of Rooms.

After some thought, Tom & Cindy decided to settle down and raise a family.  In doing so, he had to leave that business. Not knowing what else to do besides hotel management, Tom’s mother shared an Edward Jones employment brochure with him. 

Eventually, Tom and Cindy decided to move to La Crosse, WI, to begin a new career with Edward Jones.  Tom’s earnings went from six figures in the hotel business to building a client base from scratch with Edward Jones.  It took hard work and commitment, but at the end of the day, it was worth it.

Tom enjoys helping people.  He has demonstrated this over three decades of serving others, from providing hotel guests a five star experience, to helping clients gain financial freedom.  Tom and Cindy now enjoy traveling the world and spending time with family.  As a resort guest, Tom’s appreciation runs deep, knowing the kind of investment the hotel property puts into the guest experience.  


Tom has chosen to generously give back to Southwest, to support the next generation of students in the service industry, through the Thomas Sahlstrom Culinology & Hospitality Management annual and endowed scholarships.
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