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Local donors gift house

The Dickinson State University Heritage Foundation acquired the former foundation's house Tuesday thanks to the support of 39 donors who purchased the house and its contents.

The Dickinson State University Heritage Foundation acquired the former foundation's house on Tuesday. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press
The Dickinson State University Heritage Foundation acquired the former foundation's house on Tuesday. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press

The Dickinson State University Heritage Foundation acquired the former foundation's house Tuesday thanks to the support of 39 donors who purchased the house and its contents.

About 27 donors purchased the $700,000 house and 12 more helped buy back its contents for another $50,000 at the end of last year. The group of donors raised the money in about 30 days starting around Oct. 20, 2016, said state Rep. Mike Lefor, R-District 37 and president and CEO of DCI Credit Services.

Lefor, a DSU alumnus, served as one of the main organizers of the donors.

"For almost 100 years Dickinson State University has been a high-quality institution of higher education that has created a lot of great teachers, nurses and business people that have gone on to support the economy in southwest North Dakota," he said. "... It's a quality institution, and it was in need of a little assistance."

Dickinson State has faced problems in previous years surrounding the university's previous foundation, the Dickinson State University Foundation, a declining enrollment and revenue losses, he said. At one point, the previous foundation was not allowed to accept any scholarship money, making student recruitment more difficult.

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The 39 donors worked independently of DSU and Heritage Foundation. Brady Martz, an accounting firm in Dickinson, and Mackoff-Kellogg Law Firm also donated time to help handle the donations and paperwork.

"The donors came together on their own and knew the significance of this house and wanted to keep it at DSU," said Ty Orton, the executive director for the DSU Heritage Foundation. "They raised the money on their own, they handled all the money, they did everything that they were supposed to do in the correct format. The friends of DSU are great."

The house will be rented out to the previous foundation in the meantime as it wraps up its civil process. The old foundation is being sued by some banks, so the judge will decide how much money it owes creditors and how much money can be transferred to the new foundation, Lefor said. That process should conclude in June. On July 1, the DSU Heritage Foundation will move into its new home.

"I think a lot of us are waiting for this to be done so that DSU can move on, but the new foundation people have been doing an outstanding at job raising funds," Lefor said. "There's still strong support for the university, so it would be nice to close that chapter and move on."

A group of donors has also raised $100,000 toward a goal of $150,000 in order to cover the house's operating and maintenance expenses over the next six years, Lefor said. They hope to reach that goal in the next few months.

"I am just tremendously proud of the people who were involved in the Blue Hawk Partners coming to step up to get this done because it's going to be an important step in our continued quest to fix what ailed Dickinson State in the past, and now that you've got a great president, great administration and students, you're going to see the university really grow and take off," Lefor said.

The DSU Heritage Foundation's new building will contain the new foundation's offices as well as serve as a meeting space and social space for the DSU community and for donors, said Dr. Thomas Arnold, president of the DSU Heritage Foundation Board.

"We're very thankful for it," he said. "The house is going to provide us the opportunity to have the foundation in one location to perform all of what we need to do out of that one location. It's going to allow exposure to the public... It will be used for social events involving the foundation and the community and the Dickinson State University family. It's a wonderful asset to redeem."

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Orton noted that the house will also serve as a meeting place between students and donors, so that the donors can see where the money is being spent and who is receiving it, while the students have the chance to put a face behind the money that helps fund their university.

The Heritage Foundation began about 13 months ago and started with nothing, Orton said. It has since raised nearly $4 million for student scholarships and support, he said. The new foundation never had plans to buy the house but now has a home just off campus to welcome alumni back to the school.

"Really it's overwhelming for me just to imagine what this group of individuals did to come together and make this house a reality for us," Orton said. "... We're fortunate that we have the community that we have and the support we have in this community. We live somewhere very special, and the supporters have shown that for Dickinson State and continue to do that. We're more grateful than anybody knows."

Related Topics: DICKINSON STATE UNIVERSITY
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