2014 South Dakota Sales and Marketing Executive of the Year™
T. Denny Sanford
T. Denny Sanford was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Young Denny developed an early work ethic during his summers, working in his father’s clothing distribution company. His mother died of breast cancer when he was 4; and his father and an older brother both died of heart disease at a young age.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1958, Denny had a career in sales, marketing, and materials distribution. He then established Contech Inc, a Minneapolis-based national company, manufacturing sealants, coatings, and adhesives. The company employed 350 people, including a chemical laboratory with 13 chemists, developing products for large architectural buildings. At same time, he started a venture capital company.
In 1986, following a brief retirement, he purchased United National Corporation in Sioux Falls, SD (now First PREMIER Bank), and added a newly-formed credit card company (Premier BANKCARD). Today, UNC is one of the strongest capitalized banks in the country. The success of these two companies has helped the economy and created more than 3,000 jobs within the state of South Dakota. Denny remains active in Threshold Ventures (his Arizona office), as well as these two financial institutions.
Upon forming his foundation for charitable giving, Mr. Sanford’s initial focus was to help sick, disadvantaged, abused and/or neglected children. To that end, he has been a long-time supporter of the Children’s Home Society in South Dakota. He also donated money to build the Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, as well as the T. Denny Sanford Mayo Clinic Pediatric Center in Rochester MN; and the T. Denny Sanford Pediatric Center at Florida Hospital for Children. He also donated funds to the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine for their new pediatric residency program.
Mr. Sanford’s attention subsequently turned to the fields of scientific and medical research. He pledged $70M for the Homestake Mine Underground Laboratory Research Program in Lead, and donated over $400 million to the Sioux Valley Health System in Sioux Falls (now Sanford Health), whose major initiatives include developing children’s clinics worldwide and whose research center focuses on finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Most recently, he gave Sanford Health $100M to establish the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Research Center. Today the nonprofit health system centered on North and South Dakota includes nearly three dozen hospitals and more than 140 clinics.
Denny’s generosity extends to other agencies around the State: the Crazy Horse Memorial, Homesteak Underground Mine in Lead, SDSU’s Dykhouse Student-Athlete Center, USD’s Beacom School of Business, Volunteers of America-Dakotas, Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation and Sioux Empire United Way, to name a few.
In California, he supports the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, the Salk Institute and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Other recipients around the country include his Alma Mater’s football program; Roundup River Ranch in Vail, Colorado; and teacher education programs and gender harmony projects at Arizona State University.
Mr. Sanford’s total giving to date is over $850M.