Giving millions is great if it is given for the right reasons
AT ISSUE: A recent Argus Leader article, 'From success to significance,' told of the philanthropy of T. Denny Sanford, a Sioux Falls banker who during the past several months has given away millions of dollars. His two favorite charities, he said, were children and education. However, there appears to be a caveat to most of his giving.
While this may prompt some to get "their feathers ruffled," those millions of dollars will go a long way in making South Dakota a better place to live. At the same time, at least one person asked, "Whatever happened to giving without expecting something in return?"
A RECENT LETTER to the editor of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader was critical of the SD Board of Regents allowing Sioux Falls banker and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford to have his name attached to the USD School of Medicine following a $20 million endowment for the school to focus on more research.
The letter writer, Dr. Wade E. Dosch of Sioux Falls, wrote, "No individual or health care system should be allowed to buy the medical school's name and reputation - no matter how big the donation." The physician, who is a faculty member and graduate of the USD School of Medicine believes "Financial dependence on nonprofit hospital systems compromises the medical school's autonomy and independence."
The doctor also asked the regents if everything under their domain was for sale for a price. Now, Dr. Dosch may be a voice crying in the wilderness or he may be echoing the sentiments of many about renaming it the Sanford School of Medicine.
ACCORDING TO the letter, my friend Regent Richard Belatti of Madison, who is a retired physician, apparently was the only regent who saw this as a conflict of interest.
Dr. Dosch concluded his letter to the editor, "Whatever happened to giving without expecting something in return?"
So, are we just seeing a malcontent at work or a person waving a red flag for all of us to think about?
According to the Sanford article, some of his recent contributions are $5 million to the Sanford Children's Hospital, $20 million to the USD (Sanford) School of Medicine, $2 million to the Children's Home Society and $16 million for a new (Sanford?) Pediatric Hospital at Sioux Valley.
The letter and the subsequent January 28 article on Mr. Sanford and his benevolences reminded me of a couple of my columns I wrote late last year about philanthropy, especially from non-profit organizations like the two Sioux Falls hospitals giving to such things as proposed recreation centers and football stadiums and such. I didn't say that was all bad, but questioned if such institutions had such large surpluses of money, wouldn't they serve better purposes?
THE REACTIONS TO these columns were mixed. Not that I was promoting one way of thought or the other, but stating a case for discussion. And from what I got back through emails and letters, there was discussion! This holds true with the Sanford philanthropy as well.
We first heard of Sanford when he purchased the United National Bank and changed its name to First Premier Bank. He ran into some difficulties in the banking business, but once that was straightened out he started Premier Bankcard. From these two enterprises came the fortunes that further established his philanthropic foundation.
Sanford, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, made his first million in that state. Earlier in his benevolence career he attempted to donate heavily to the University of Minnesota if officials there would name a new football stadium after him. After they refused he has invested his fortunes pretty much in South Dakota. And that is awfully hard to criticize.
WILL SOUTH DAKOTA continue to be the focus of his philanthropy? We hope so. Does every building he builds have to have his name on it? That opinion is up to each of my readers. However, we would like to see more of his and others investing of their gifts spread around our South Dakota....
Gordon Garnos was long-time editor of the Watertown Public Opinion and recently retired after 39 years with that newspaper. Garnos, a lifelong resident of South Dakota except for his military service in the U.S. Air Force, was born and raised in Presho.