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Alumna of UND gives $5 million

UND alumna Louise Ferguson has donated $5 million to UND, university officials announced Wednesday. Ferguson, who died last spring, was a Grand Forks native and widow of Bill Ferguson, a California oil company real estate manager. Ferguson's gift...

UND alumna Louise Ferguson has donated $5 million to UND, university officials announced Wednesday.

Ferguson, who died last spring, was a Grand Forks native and widow of Bill Ferguson, a California oil company real estate manager.

Ferguson's gift will be invested in the university's endowment and revenues from the investment will be used to fund presidential scholarships for high achieving students, said Tim O'Keefe, executive vice president of the UND Foundation. About 600 presidential scholarship recipients currently attend UND, according to Bob Boyd, vice president for student and outreach services.

"How do you find words to describe that kind of impact," said UND President Charles Kupchella . "(The gift) will bring high achieving students here that otherwise wouldn't have that kind of opportunity. . . These are the kinds of students that sit up front and grab the professor by the shirt and say 'tell me more.'"

Kupchella estimated the investment will yield about $200,000 annually, enough for about 13 full-ride scholarships or for about 40 tuition-only scholarships. He said some of the endowment yield will be re-invested in the principal to make up for inflation, so the value of the endowment will never decrease.

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Ferguson's gift is the largest since spring 2006 when the school received a nearly $10 million donation from Elnora (Hopper) Danley and her deceased husband, Roy. Part of that money was used to build the Hopper Danley Memorial Chapel and the Hopper Danley Quiet Room in the UND Wellness Center.

Ferguson's gift also puts UND's endowment over $100 million. The university has announced preliminary plans for a capital campaign to raise that endowment to $500 million over the course of several years.

The endowment has grown by about $55 million in the 10 years since the Flood of '97, O'Keefe said.

The yield from university endowments is used to fund scholarships, endowed professorships and research grants. UND officials have linked the capital campaign with a goal of moving UND into the top 50 research universities in the country.

UND already has embarked on the "quiet phase" of its campaign, during which officials hope to raise about half of the $500 million goal, Kupchella said.

That standing money will help create momentum to complete the campaign, he said, which could take between six and 10 years. He said several donors already have promised significant funds to the campaign.

O'Keefe said the official campaign announcement might come at UND's 2008 Homecoming or some other time during 2008, which marks the school's 125th anniversary.

Marks reports on higher education. Reach him at (701) 780-1105, (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or jmarks@gfherald.com .

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