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MSUM receives gift of $4.3 million to College of Arts and Humanities

Washington state businessman leaves entire estate to the university in one of the largest donations in MSUM history.

Minnesota State University Moorhead President Anne Blackhurst, along with Dr. Earnest Lamb, announces a $4.3 million gift to the College of Arts and Humanities and the creation of the Tom and Adrienne Bahr Center for Humanities on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Forum Communications Co.

MOORHEAD — The "grand finale" of the Winter Celebration of the Arts at Minnesota State University Moorhead on Friday night, Dec. 3, had nothing to do with the musical performances or artwork and films on display.

It was money.

President Anne Blackhurst took to the stage in front of an almost full auditorium of guests to announce the single largest gift to the College of Arts and Humanities, and one of the largest ever to the university.

The donation of $4.3 million will be from the entire estate of MSUM alumnus Thomas Peter Von Bahr, a businessman and affordable housing entrepreneur from the Puget Sound area of Washington state who died in August.

The only other larger gifts to the university were two $5 million donations to the university's School of Business.


Blackhurst said the funds will be used mostly for scholarships for students studying the arts and humanities.

She said the gift will also be used for enrichment activities at the school, such as special speakers, student trips and grants to students and faculty for special programs or studies.

A center in honor of Von Bahr's parents, Tom and Adrienne Bahr, will also be developed in the Roland Dille Center for the Arts, which is likely to undergo a remodeling in about five years.

Von Bahr, who graduated in 1967, was close friends with the late philosophy professor Charles Magel and the late Dille, who was president of MSUM for 26 years.

Blackhurst said Magel, who also left funds to the university, had urged Von Bahr to leave his estate to his alma mater.

She said Magel had been instrumental in opening Von Bahr's curiosity to literature, philosophy, history and the arts.

Dille was also a factor in Von Bahr's college days, as he urged Von Bahr to take a wide range of courses, perhaps stretching the limits of what classes he should have taken.

After graduating, Von Bahr traveled the world before starting his successful business ventures.


Blackhurst said his book collection that he had gathered from around the world was also part of the gift to the university.

"He had an extraordinary life," said the MSUM president.

And his gift was extraordinary, too.

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