News and analysis
February 09, 2014

No. 20: T. Denny Sanford

UC San Diego

T. Denny Sanford

Amount donated in 2013: $130.5-million

Top beneficiary: University of California at San Diego

Other notable gifts: Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, South Dakota State University

Background: Mr. Sanford is chairman of United National Corporation, a banking business in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Mr. Sanford, 78, pledged $100-million to the University of California at San Diego to establish the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center. Work at the new center will include the development of drugs and stem-cell therapies, and researchers and others there will conduct, promote, and disseminate clinical trials.

Mr. Sanford, who has a home in the San Diego area and has donated to a number of medical-research organizations there, said he decided to make the gift after a visit from Larry Goldstein, who leads the university’s Stem Cell Program. Mr. Goldstein told him what could be accomplished if the process of turning stem cells into therapies could be accelerated.

Mr. Sanford says he hopes his donation will make it possible to use stem cells to treat Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, spinal-cord injuries, and other maladies.

“We’re on the cusp of turning years of knowledge into actual treatments, said Mr. Sanford. “I want this gift to push that reality faster.”

He also gave large gifts last year in his home state of South Dakota. He donated $10-million to the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation to accelerate the completion of the memorial being built in South Dakota’s Black Hills; and another $10-million to South Dakota State University for a new football stadium.

In addition, Mr. Sanford gave $5-million to Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute for breast-cancer research; $2.5-million to Dakota State University for a new information-technology center; $1-million to National University for an education center; $1-million to Roundup River Ranch, a camp for children with chronic or life-threatening diseases; and $1-million to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

The Philanthropy 50: Browse the full list of America's most generous donors in 2013.

Learn more: See this donor's listing in our database of major gifts, America's Top Donors.

Send an e-mail to Maria Di Mento.