MINNEAPOLIS/WINONA, Minn. — Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota is announcing a $25 million gift commitment — the largest gift in the university’s 111-year-history — from an alumnus and his family. This unprecedented donation, directed to the university’s endowment, will support current efforts underway to revitalize the university and cement the vision recently laid out by the president and university administration to position it for a strong and successful future.
“We are forever grateful for this truly transformational gift to Saint Mary’s. Such a generous and major investment inspires and motivates us to advance our inspirational Lasallian Catholic educational mission, benefiting students and, in turn, society, as they work, lead, and serve others,” said Father James P. Burns, IVD, Ph.D., Saint Mary’s president. “In these challenging times across higher education, this gift affirms that we are setting the course necessary to continue to serve students for decades to come.”
While the benefactors wish to remain anonymous, they shared they felt compelled to invest in Saint Mary’s, stating how much they appreciate the hard work of the president and administration to boldly address the future course of Saint Mary’s. They see the university as one of the few that have a clear plan to steer through the turbulent waters facing all in higher education today.
“Saint Mary’s has refocused its program offerings to directly meet workforce needs while maintaining a liberal arts core,” said Father Burns. “We know that today’s students (both graduate and undergraduate) are looking for a solid return on their investment, which is why our university is partnering with health care and other major industry leaders to ensure that Saint Mary’s can continue to respond to the evolving marketplace. We must ensure our graduates, who are tomorrow’s leaders, have the right skills for both work and life including problem solving, critical thinking, and communication. This is because our liberal arts foundation remains central to our undergraduate experience thus providing students with a well-rounded perspective that will benefit them throughout their lives. Our work is guided by our identity as a Lasallian Catholic community, which calls us to be student-centered, welcoming, and forward thinking.”
As a stipulation of the gift agreement, in order to inspire others to step forward to provide support, the family has challenged the university to raise an additional $100 million between June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2024. The family also has set an expectation that the university will make significant progress toward increasing undergraduate enrollment from 800 to 900 during that same timeframe. Both stipulations are intended to further position the university for the future.
“In addition to the historic magnitude of the gift, it is special for other reasons as well,” said Gary Klein, vice president for advancement. “The benefactors’ primary goal is to grow the university’s endowment from $70 million to close to $100 million and — with the match — close to $200 million, an increase of 180%. They believe strongly that with this solid foundation, and guidance by Father President James Burns and the Board of Trustees, many generations of students will benefit from a Saint Mary’s education — and, in turn, society will benefit from graduates who are both skilled and demonstrate strong moral and ethical character.”
Previous record gifts to the university included $8 million in April of 2014 to our First Generation Initiative and an unrestricted gift of $7 million in June 2000.
Board Chair Terrence Russell said, “We are grateful beyond words to this family for their gift. It is now a challenge for all of us who want to see our beloved Saint Mary’s thrive and flourish in the future to step forward and make a philanthropic commitment to help us realize this gift. Our president has set a course that is innovative, visionary, and grounded in our faith-based mission. We could not be better poised for the future with his leadership and those of his team along with our faculty and staff to create the best learning environments for our students now and into the future. We are blessed.”