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$50 million Walton donation to Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library pared to $15 million

The acquisition of 90 acres for the presidential library will be completed by the end of the month, with construction slated to begin the summer of 2023.

Rendering of proposed library under cloudy skies on a wind-swept prairie
Oslo-based architecture firm Snøhetta sees the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library as a simple complement to the rugged North Dakota Badlands. The library will be built in Medora near the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and is slated to open in 2026.
Sketch courtesy of Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation
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FARGO — The $50 million pledge from Rob and Melani Walton for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library turned out to be $15 million, but fundraising nonetheless has exceeded the project’s $100 million goal.

Ed O'Keefe, president and chief executive officer of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation, confirmed that the contribution from the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation, whose wealth comes from the Walmart fortune, has come in smaller than expected.

“The Rob and Melani Walton Foundation has been extremely generous,” and gave the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation $15 million, O’Keefe said in a statement on Monday, April 25.

The Waltons’ contribution included $10 million to support scholarship at the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University and help with the presidential library’s obligations in return for a $50 million endowment from the state of North Dakota.

Another $5 million from the Waltons supported the presidential library’s initial efforts, O’Keefe said.

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“We believe strongly in the importance of honoring the extraordinary legacy of Theodore Roosevelt — which is why we are so pleased to have supported this project from its inception,” Melani and Rob Walton said in a statement.
The reduced contribution was first reported by KFGO.

Despite the $35 million shortfall in the Waltons’ expected contribution, the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation was able to more than compensate, O’Keefe said.

“TRPLF is very fortunate to have numerous generous benefactors,” he said, enabling the presidential library foundation to surpass its $100 million goal and meet all its obligations under the state endowment legislation.

In another development, O’Keefe said, the presidential library is “on track” to complete a 90-acre land purchase from the U.S. Forest Service this month for a site in Medora, near the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

“We’ll have to do a ceremony of some sort, probably in the fall,” to mark the land purchase. “We’d love to have the Roosevelt family out,” because their donation enabled the land purchase, O’Keefe said.

Native prairie will be restored on the library site. “It’s going to be a showcase of sustainability,” O’Keefe said. “The library really is a landscape. It’s much more than a physical building.”

Plat markers covered by snow from a series of recent snowstorms that swept western North Dakota delayed the final step in the land purchase, he said.

“We are planning to break ground next summer, in June 2023, with about two and a half years of substantial construction before a grand opening on July 4, 2026,” which coincides with the 250th anniversary of America's founding and the Declaration of Independence, O’Keefe said.

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Schematic designs for the library are essentially complete, sketching out where various exhibits and other elements will be located.

"It's getting solidified," O'Keefe said.

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address: pspringer@forumcomm.com
Phone: 701-367-5294
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