Anonymous donation sparks $4.5 million NDSU entrepreneurship endowment

FARGO -- An anonymous donation has helped North Dakota State University establish a $4.5 million endowment for entrepreneurship.The local business community has been telling the school's leadership it needs to encourage entrepreneurship, NDSU Pre...
NDSU President Dean Bresciani announces a $4.5 million endowment during a 1 Million Cups talk at the Stage at Island Park on June 8, 2016. The endowment will seek to promote student scholarships for the university. "Everybody wins in the end," says President Bresciani.Matt Hellman / The Forum

FARGO -- An anonymous donation has helped North Dakota State University establish a $4.5 million endowment for entrepreneurship.

The local business community has been telling the school’s leadership it needs to encourage entrepreneurship, NDSU President Dean Bresciani said Wednesday, June 8, at 1 Million Cups, a weekly entrepreneurial meetup in Fargo.

“Unfortunately, there’s only so many resources to spread around,” said Bresciani. He said the anonymous donor hopes the $3 million donation, supplemented by a $1.5 million matching grant from the state, will encourage others to donate to the school. 

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The gift is in honor of Jim Ozbun, who was president of NDSU from 1988 to 1995, and establishes an endowed chair to focus on “nurturing faculty excellence in entrepreneurship education” and encouraging students to “pursue big ideas and innovative thinking,” NDSU said in a news release.

Bresciani said the donation will also go toward scholarships, which he intends to be awarded to students in any discipline, not only business. NDSU offers a six-course certificate program in entrepreneurship open to all students regardless of major.

“In a perfect world, all of our students would have training in entrepreneurship,” he said.

Students in engineering, for example, also need training in entrepreneurship, Bresciani said.

Armon Myrick, an NDSU manufacturing instructor, said the engineering school tries to foster interest in entrepreneurship in its students.

“Learning new things, and entrepreneurship is about learning new things, is part of the draw,” Myrick said.

The President Jim Ozbun Chair of Entrepreneurship is the university’s third endowed chair.

The other two are the Neil C. Gudmestad Endowed Chair of Potato Pathology and the CHS Chair in Risk Management and Trading. All three were established within the past three years and received matching funds from the North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Fund. 

Bresciani said the endowment is one of the biggest the school has received. In September, the school received $3.6 million from architect and painter Jim Falck to go toward scholarships, program development, faculty development and international programs for the visual arts department.

The school’s business school will begin searching nationally to find the chair’s first holder. Bresciani said the amount of funding that will go toward scholarships depends on how much the chair will be paid.

Ozbun, a native of Flasher, N.D., completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in soil science from NDSU before returning to Fargo for the end of his academic career. He and his wife, Sonja, live in Dickinson.

Ozbun said he was honored to have his name on the endowed chair for entrepreneurship, in a statement included in the NDSU news release.

In his tenure as president, Ozbun assisted in gaining approval for the construction of the Fargodome and established a doctorate program in pharmacy, the Division of Fine Arts, the Research Foundation and first Staff Senate in North Dakota.