Sam Mulgrew was born and raised in Dubuque. There he attended Wahlert High School and Loras College. He also attended Hunter College in New York City and has a B.A. degree in intellectual history. He worked in the financial sector in New York City and for 12 years was a rancher in Jackson County. He returned to Dubuque to serve as the executive director of the Four Mounds Foundation. He founded Mineral Crossing Retreat Center and currently is the General Manager of Trappist Caskets at New Melleray Abbey in Peosta. He has served on boards and committees of arts agencies and museums and is a former board member of the Jackson County Historical Society. He is married and has two daughters.