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Sanford Makes $100M Gift to National University System

Philanthropist, banker and La Jolla resident T. Denny Sanford made a landmark, $100 million gift to the San Diego-based National University System to expand Sanford Harmony, a social emotional learning program.

National University made the announcement on June 5. It is the largest gift of its kind to the university.

Sanford Harmony — which benefits from a previous Sanford donation — aims to decrease stereotyping, bullying, aggression, school violence, poor gender relations and even divorce.

July 2017-June 2018

$30 million from Franklin Antonio to UC San Diego, November 2017

Up to $10 million in matching funds from Bob and Renee Parsons to the Semper Fi Fund, November 2017

$20 million from Don and Ellie Knauss to the University of San Diego, December 2017

$30 million from T. Denny Sanford to the San Diego Zoo, January

$30 million from T. Denny Sanford to the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc., February (The gift will fund scholarships at 12 universities, including UC San Diego and National University)

$10 million from Rafaela and John

Belanich to the University of San Diego, April

$100 million from T. Denny Sanford to the National University System, June

According to National University, the educational program offers a comprehensive toolkit of life-transforming lessons and strategies emphasizing diversity and inclusion; empathy and critical thinking; communication; problem-solving; and peer relationships.

The new gift allows the program, which is currently reaching about 1.5 million students, to reach up to 30 million students nationally and around the world.

Through the new gift, the university will create the Sanford Harmony Research Institute with an inaugural class of fellows from leading research institutions.

Strengthen Families, Communities

“Denny Sanford is a truly remarkable individual who believes strongly in the power of supportive, collaborative relationships to strengthen families, communities and society at large,” said Michael R. Cunningham, chancellor of the National University System, a network of nonprofit education institutions. “Denny’s vision of creating a better world starts with addressing these issues at the youngest ages, and it could not come at a more crucial time when the nation faces increasing challenges in our schools, homes and in the workplace.”

In April 2017, Sanford gave $28 million to the university system to support Sanford Harmony and two other programs, Sanford Inspire and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy.

Denny Sanford made his career in construction materials and financial services. He is chairman of the board for United National Corp., the South Dakota holding company for First Premier Bank and Premier Bankcard.

Sanford, who has residences in La Jolla and South Dakota, has made numerous donations to various organizations and causes as part of his stated goal to donate most of his wealth before his death. So far he has donated in excess of $1 billion.

$30M for Children’s Zoo

In January, Sanford made a $30 million gift to the San Diego Zoo to help fund its new children’s zoo. The Sanford Children’s Zoo is expected to be a $69 million project.

In February, Sanford donated $30 million to the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc. The sum will fund scholarships at 12 universities, including UC San Diego and National University.

Sanford’s San Diego philanthropy goes back even further.

In 2013, Sanford committed $100 million to create the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at UC San Diego.

Sanford also donated $70 million to the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (formerly the La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation).

In 2008, he donated $30 million to the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine (formerly the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine).


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