Once-defunct NDUS Foundation doubles bank balance to $166, begins revival
BISMARCK -- The North Dakota University System Foundation is taking baby steps toward reinvigoration after several years of inactivity. Chancellor Mark Hagerott said former North Dakota Attorney General Bob Wefald donated $100 Monday, more than d...
BISMARCK - The North Dakota University System Foundation is taking baby steps toward reinvigoration after several years of inactivity.
Chancellor Mark Hagerott said former North Dakota Attorney General Bob Wefald donated $100 Monday, more than doubling the foundation’s existing balance of $66.
In December, State Board of Higher Education member Kevin Melicher was charged with reviving the foundation, something he said he hadn’t even known existed at the time.
“It’s just a very exciting opportunity for our university system to open up avenues of providing something, whether it’s scholarships, grants or workforce incentives to bring and to keep our students in the state,” he said.
The foundation was started in 1991 as a nonprofit entity to support higher education in North Dakota but hasn’t been active in recent years. SBHE spokeswoman Billie Jo Lorius said in an email the last meeting minutes for the foundation’s board she could find were from May 2013.
Hagerott said the foundation most likely fell by the wayside during years of controversy under the reigns of former chancellors William Goetz, Hamid Shirvani and Larry Skogen, who served in the interim.
“We don’t have any real history of why it went dormant, but I think you can surmise we had something like four chancellors in a couple years and trying to reinvigorate the foundation when you had such turmoil wasn’t high on the priority list,” Hagerott said.
NDUS Chief Financial Officer Tammy Dolan was elected to serve as secretary and treasurer at a foundation meeting Monday.
Several institutions that are a part of the NDUS have respective foundations, including UND’s Alumni Association and Foundation, but both Hagerott and Melicher said repeatedly the system foundation is not meant to compete with those at individual schools.
“We are not developing this to be competitive in nature with their foundations but as a way we can help them and they can help us as we all move forward with the system,” Melicher said.
Melicher said he’s optimistic about the endeavor, citing a report compiled by the Impact Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves North Dakota and parts of northwestern Minnesota. The report states the potential for charitable contributions in North Dakota is about 20 percent higher per household than in the rest of the country and estimates the state has the potential for $95 million in charitable giving from 2007 to 2061.
“We have many areas where we can use funding,” Melicher said.
Hagerott said he would like to see the foundation support Bakken U, an initiative to send temporarily unemployed oil workers and engineers to institutions in western North Dakota. He also said the money raised by the foundation could go toward cyber security scholarships or those in the arts.
Melicher said he hopes lawmakers will get involved and wants to look into acquiring matching grant funds for some contributions.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said.
Burleson is the higher education reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. Contact her at (701) 780-1114 and follow her on Twitter @AnnagatorB.