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UND’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences receives nearly $2 million in donations for scholarships

Top administrators for the university met in the lobby of Robin Hall with the building’s namesake Si Robin, and his pilot Scott Patterson, to accept the donations that will be used to create scholarships for aviation students for years to come. While Robin pledged $1 million for the school, Patterson donated $25,000, which will become the seed for an endowment that will grow substantially.

Si Robin UND aero.jpg
Seymour “Si” Robin, left, makes comments along with UND Aerospace Foundation Board of Directors Chairman Larry Martin as cameras record the moment Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, at UND. The event announced two $1 million donations for scholarships – one from Robin and one from Scott Patterson. Robin is the namesake of the UND's Robin Hall and Patterson, said Martin, is a pilot who is "impressed with what he has seen" at the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. (Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald)

UND’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences received two donations totaling nearly $2 million at an event Thursday, Oct. 21.

Top administrators for the university met in the lobby of Robin Hall with the building’s namesake, Si Robin, and his pilot, Scott Patterson, to accept the donations that will be used to create scholarships for aviation students for years to come. While Robin pledged $1 million for the school, Patterson donated $25,000, which will become the seed for an endowment that will grow substantially and benefit from his continuing donations.

The donations will be used to create scholarships for UND students in aviation fields. Robin’s donation will support seven students over a period of 10 years, while Patterson’s donation will support a student each year. Patterson will continue to make donations each year he is able, which will culminate with a $1 million gift upon his death.

"I'm really honored to have this today. I'm honored because of all of these other people," Robin said as he pointed toward a wall of photos of others who have backed the school over the years. "We were all good friends and all of us hoped that aviation will stay for a long time. The only way I can think of how to (help accomplish that) is to donate this money. I want to thank all of you for coming today. There will be many, many students who will benefit out of this."

Robin and his wife, Betty, are among those UND aviation supporters featured on the wall of Robin Hall’s lobby. Robin worked for different aviation companies before joining Sensor Systems Inc., which was started by Betty Robin. Today the company is an industry leading designer of antennas for commercial, business and military organizations across the world. The Robins have been supporters of the aviation department for several years and donated half the money to build Robin Hall.

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Patterson is a long-time pilot, and works for Clay Lacy Aviation, founded by the legendary aviator of the same name. Patterson has frequently flown Lacy, also a UND patron, and Robin to Grand Forks. He became inspired by the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences after interacting with students there, and decided he wanted to give something back to them.

“Because of the fortunes that I’ve had and the opportunities, this gave me an opportunity to pay forward what I have received in the past,” Patterson said.

Patterson said he has known Lacy for 50 years, and worked for him for most of that time. He credited Lacy with teaching him about flying. Patterson said it’s to Lacy’s credit that he is still flying today.

Before establishing his company Lacy had a long career in commercial aviation, and flew as a test pilot on multiple different aircraft, including a Being 377 that was modified to carry the Saturn rocket booster during the years of the space race.

UND President Andrew Armacost was in attendance, as was Robert Kraus, dean of the school of aerospace sciences. Both spoke in thanks of the donations.

“My words today are simple: They are words of gratitude to both Si and Scott and their generosity," said Armacost. “They are creating opportunities for our students to do remarkable things and to make sure the Odegard School continues to transform the lives of its students. These scholarships will create amazing opportunities for students for years to come."

Said Kraus: “We have incredible flight training here and aviation training across the board and it's all about the students. We're grateful for everything (the Robins) have done for us over the years. And then, more recently, Scott Patterson became part of our acquaintance and has been here a number of times and seen how great the program is. It's the students who are really going to benefit from these programs.”

Larry Martin, chair of the UND Aerospace Foundation, emceed the event and gave recognition to the generous donations. He also noted the rarity of such large gifts.

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“Million-dollar estate gifts (and) endowments do not fall out of trees. They do not happen very often,” Martin said. “... The Odegard School is very fortunate to have these gentlemen in our lives.”

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Scott Patterson speaks during a brief ceremony commemorating million-dollar donations made by Patterson and Si Robin Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, at UND. (Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald)

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

Desk: 701-780-1110
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