Commencement 2017


Honorary Degree Recipient

Mr. Denny T. Sanford 

Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

Mr. T. Denny Sanford serves as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of United National Corporation. Mr. Sanford serves as Chairman of First Premier Bank. Mr. Sanford was recruited by Armstrong Cork Company for a job in Sales and Marketing Management. In 1960, he left Armstrong Cork to found a manufacturers' representative company promoting technical products through architects and engineers, initially in the north central US, then nationally. In 1964, Mr. Sanford formed a regional distribution company that also expanded nationally. In 1971, he acquired a 50-year-old specialty chemical company that specialized in architectural sealants, coatings and adhesive products from Sears & Roebuck. A year later, Mr. Sanford took a company known as "Contech" (for its construction technology products) public. He sold Contech in 1982. In 1983, he created a venture capital fund to help young entrepreneurs establish promising businesses. In 1986, he purchased United National Bank, which was renamed First Premier Bank. 

In 2001, Mr. Sanford established the Sanford Foundation for charitable giving. By 2005, he ranked 14th on the Chronicle of Philanthropy's list of America's Most-Generous Donors, with donations that year alone of more than $70.5 million to US charitable causes, including $20 million to the Sioux Valley health system for use in expansion projects involving the University of South Dakota School of Medicine. In 2006, he was named to the Business Week Top 50 list of most generous philanthropists in the United States. Mr. Sanford is a generous donor to various child welfare, community and health related charities in the U.S., including $70 million to the Homestake Mine Project in South Dakota and significant gifts to the Children's Home Society in Sioux Falls and the United Way. Mr. Sanford is an avid sportsman. He serves as Honorary Trustee of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and served as its Trustee.

He graduated from St. Paul Central High School and he attended the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where he graduated in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology.

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