DICKINSON, N.D. -- A new foundation has been formed for Dickinson State University as the dissolution of the old foundation awaits.
DSU interim President Jim Ozbun said the new foundation, named the DSU Heritage Foundation, will be made up of an 18-person board, including three officers who were selected last Friday.
Those three officers are Dickinson obstetrician Dr. Tom Arnold as president, American Bank Center Regional President Bruce Dolezal as vice president and former state Sen. George Nodland as secretary-treasurer.
All three men are DSU alumni.
Nodland said he appreciated that many of the board members had roots in the university and that the common background “really affects the bond of the tie” between members.
He said he was “very enthusiastic” about the new foundation and its role at DSU.
“It’s like almost starting as a new university,” Nodland said.“I’m really confident and feel very confident in the board that is being put together, that they’re on the board because they have a lot of interest in DSU, and the future of DSU and rebuilding our university.”
Ozbun said the executive director of the new foundation, a position yet to be filled, will be appointed by and will report directly to the university president as a way to increase accountability.
He described that as a “major change” from the old DSU Foundation, in which the executive director reported to his board.
He also said the new board would like to give any members of the former foundation’s board “several years” before being considered to join the Heritage Foundation to “keep everything clean” for the dissolution process.
“We think it would be easier for the new foundation to get going if we start it fresh,” said Ozbun, whose interim position will end when newly appointed DSU President Thomas Mitzel takes office in January.
The DSU Foundation, the university’s last alumni and scholarship fundraising foundation, is in the early stages of dissolution following a Sept. 4 order for the action by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.
That foundation was forced into financial receivership by Stenehjem in November 2014 because of financial issues the attorney general alleged were the result of multiple financial and ethical concerns, including the use of scholarship funds being to cover operating costs.
Court-appointed receiver Sean Smith, a partner at Tschider & Smith law firm in Bismarck and a certified public accountant, wrote in his final receiver’s report that he found no “malfeasance, wrongdoing, or fraudulent activity on behalf of the current or past management, staff or directors of DSUF,” but recommended dissolution after concluding that “the continued operation of DSUF is not a viable option.”
A Dec. 7 hearing will establish the proceedings for the dissolution process.
The Heritage Foundation board has filed to be recognized by the state as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Ozbun said he was hopeful that the new foundation would be able to give out some scholarships by next spring, but said the extent of the DSU Heritage Foundation’s funds are currently awaiting the eventual results of the dissolution.
“The real problem is that, until the courts decide what to do with the endowed funds that we have in the old foundation, we don’t have a lot of money to give out for scholarships,” Ozbun said. “We’ll have some, but we don’t have a lot. It’s going to take a while to get that endowed money transferred into the new foundation, and I can’t tell you how long it’ll be or how much it’ll be.”
Ozbun said there are two new donations pending which he described as a “significant chunk, for each of them.”
Nodland said he believed the most important things for the Heritage Foundation were maintaining transparency and providing for DSU students.
“People are not going to donate money to something that they lack trust in,” he said.
Dolezal, who said he was involved in the old foundation back in the 1990s, described the new board as a “diverse group” of community members interested in the university and the foundation’s role.
He described the mission of the new foundation as a return to its original purpose, as it was when he was involved -- funding scholarships to DSU and attracting new donors.
“The people that are there are there for a reason, and they care about moving forward,” Dolezal said of the Heritage Foundation. “We need to start over.”
The board is scheduled to hold its next meeting at 1 p.m. Oct. 30 at the DSU Foundation house.
Attempts were made Tuesday to reach Arnold about his role on the board, but he was out of town and unavailable for comment.