COLFAX, N.D. — Christmas has come early for the Richland 44 School District.

Darrel Hendrickson, a former Colfax-area farmer, bequeathed more than $4.5 million to be used for scholarships for Richland 44 students, Superintendent Dean Koppelman said Friday, Dec. 7.

Koppelman said the gift was announced at an assembly at the Colfax junior-senior high school, which included children from the elementary school in Abercrombie.

“It’s just a fantastic thing that’s happened here. Boy oh boy, what a thought he had thinking of the students here. It’s just a real blessing, it really is,” he said.

Koppelman said the size of the gift is something more often seen at the college and university level.

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“I have not experienced something like that in all my years in education. Gifts like that just don’t happen at school districts,” Koppelman said.

“It’s an amazing gift. I mean, it changes lives. It gives the opportunity for some who may not be able to afford or who may postpone college, to now be able to immediately go on to college and further their education,” School Board President Nathan Berseth said. “Words cannot describe the generosity of Mr. Hendrickson.”

Hendrickson was a longtime farmer in the Colfax area. He was living in Fargo when he died in 2016 at the age of 83.

Berseth said the district knew a couple of years ago that they would receive some money from Hendrickson’s will. It was in the last few weeks that they found out the magnitude of that gift.

The school board is working with the estate “to be sure we meet and exceed Mr. Hendrickson’s desires and wishes,” and to determine the exact amount of the gift, Berseth said.

Hendrickson also gave $100,000 to the city of Colfax, and $200,000 to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Colfax, Berseth said.

“What Mr. Hendrickson chose to do with his money after he left this earth truly shows his love for his community and school,” Berseth said. “He was just a very kind, wonderful man.”

Koppelman said it could take six to 10 months to determine how the scholarship foundation will be set up and how dollars will be disbursed. “It’s a hope that the current graduating class could be among the first to get scholarships,” he said.

Scholarships will be given in the name and memory of Hendrickson and his relatives Betty, Lauritz and Marie Hendrickson.