The Sioux Valley Hospitals & Health System received its largest donation ever when South Dakota businessman Denny Sanford gave them $400 million, the health system announced today. In honor of Sanford’s generosity, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to rename the system Sanford Health.
Sanford is the CEO of United National Corporation, First Premier Bank, and Premier Bankcard. Even before this donation, he had a very impressive record of giving. In 2005, he was 14th on the Chronicle of Philanthropy‘s list of America’s most generous donors. In 2006, he appeared on Business Week’s list of the 50 most generous philanthropists in the U.S. He has previously donated $70.5 million to various causes, including an earlier $20 million gift to Sioux Valley Health.
Sanford, who is 71 years old, has been working since he was eight, when he began helping out in his father’s clothing distribution business. He started his adult career working in sales and marketing at a cork company, and soon was forming and acquiring various companies of his own. He bought United National Bank, now called First Premier Bank, in 1986, and grew its assets to almost $1 billion. His other Sioux Falls business, Premier Bankcard, has become a national leader in the credit card industry.
Staff at the newly-renamed Sanford Health expect the donation will propel their organization, already the region’s leading healthcare system, into the top tier of medical organizations nationally. They wrote on their website that the gift “will drive our ability to become a medical research organization on par with Johns Hopkins; to obtain the caliber of excellence in medical education programs such as the Mayo Clinic; and to be recognized for world class pediatric patient care and research on the level of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.”
They believe that the donation will create a momentum that will attract even more donations and research funds to their organization. In turn, the new projects at the health system will have a ripple effect that will benefit the entire surrounding community. They expect that over the the next ten years, the gift will lead to the creation of more than 9,200 new jobs and one billion dollars in economic development.
Todd Cohen, the editor and publisher of Philanthropy Journal, told ABC News that wealthy people are donating now, rather than leaving their money as bequests, so that they have a chance to see their money work. He said that a Boston College study estimated that within the next fifty years, philanthropists will give away six trillion dollars.
Some of the well-known people who were also on Business Week‘s list of the top 50 philanthropists are Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner, Michael Bloomberg, and George Soros.
Man Gives Away $400 Million, by Lindsay Hamilton, ABC News, Feb. 3, 2007
Sanford Provides Gift to Improve the Human Condition, PRNewswire, Feb. 3, 2007
Sanford Health website, sanfordhealth.org